Magic of mocko jumbies

Mastering the art of celebration

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Maura Curley

It couldn't be carnival without them. The fanciful figures, which loom high above the crowd dancing in defiance of evil, are rooted deep in local culture.

Mocko jumbies, masked and majestic, symbolize good sprits, which chase away the bad.

Becoming a mocko jumbie, doesn't just happen. The honor of performing at carnival and other celebrations must be earned through dedicated hard work.

Ask Alli Paul what it takes, and be prepared to listen.

Paul is a mocko jumbie master who has been performing for 40 years.

Paul was 12 years old when he and a friend snuck under a house and peeked into a workshop to discover how stilts were made.

In the late 1950's Magnus Farrel was the leading mocko jumbie, and the troupe would often scare children and chase them away.

Paul says he was more intrigued than frightened and attempted to walk and then dance on stilts.

After Farrel and another master, named Richardson retired; Paul was able to take center stage and began to teach his brothers and sisters how to be mocko jumbies.

Until he taught his sister, it was just boys and men, recalls Paul.

Eventually Paul started his own troupe of family and friends, and these people later splintered into other troupes.

Paul is proud of the part he played in reviving mocko jumbies in the Virgin Islands in the 1960's.

Photo courtesy St, Croix Jumbie Productions owner, Williard John.


Maura Curley is publisher of virginvoices.com


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