Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Seven Videos Of Caribbean Influenced Moko Jumbies In The United States

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides information about Caribbean influenced moko jumbies (stilt walking and stilt dancing) in the United States and showcases seven videos of that performance art in the USA.

Disclaimer: This post isn't meant to be comprehensive depiction of stilt dancing in the United States.

Click for a pancocojams post on traditional African stilt walking.

Also, click for a pancocojams post on Caribbean stilt walking and stilt dancing(moko jumbies).

The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are featured in this post and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to the publishers of these examples on YouTube.

Moko jumbies (stilt walking and stilt dancing performance arts) among Black people in the United States can be directly traced to Caribbean (West Indian) immigrants to the USA. However, unlike West Indians, Black Americans have no folk traditions of moko jumbies being anything but forms of entertainment.

The above linked pancocojams post about moko jumbies in the Caribbean contains information about those stilt walkers & stilt dancers. Here are two additional excerpts from online articles about moko jumbies:
From,182683.html Trinidad & Tobago Newsday Walk like a 'Moko Jumbie' today; Saturday, August 24 2013
"You have probably considered it before. How exactly do they get on top of those tall stilts? Furthermore, how do they walk, dance, jump and wine as they skillfully balance themselves atop long sticks of wood as thin as a leg?

...The Moko Jumbie is one of the most recognisable characters that parade streets during Carnival, towering over everyone. The Moko Jumbie has its origins in West Africa and was brought to TT shores through the slave trade.

The [Kaisokah Moko Jumbies] group has been in operation for 20 years under the guidance of Junior Bisnath"...

"The term "moko jumbies" combines what many have interpreted as a name for an African deity, Moko, and the West Indian word for "spirit," jumbie. Taken together, the two concepts have amounted to a centuries-old art form consisting of extravagant costumery and gravity-defying dance, in which individuals mime the movements of a towering, protective god. A staple of Carnival-esque gatherings, the stilt-walkers passed on their talents to new generations for years in cities like Port of Spain and Oaxaca.
The practice all but fizzled out, however, in the early 20th century, and wasn't truly revived until the 1980s, when a group at the Keylemanjahro School of Arts and Culture in Cocorite, Trinidad and Tobago resurrected the lavish mode of performance. They weren't just mining the past -- they used stilt-walking as a means of keeping young students and individuals off the streets of Port of Spain, urging people to bring the moko jumbie dances back to life as a community endeavor."
That article includes photographs of contemporary moko jumbie costumes worn by moko jumbie performers from Keylemanjahro School, Trinidad & Tobago, and from the Brooklyn Jumbies, United States. It appears to me from viewing the photographs included in that article and from watching videos of those two moko jumbie groups and others that moko jumbie costumes have become much more elaborate and visually stimulating then they were before. Contemporary moko jumbie costumes may consist of twirling capes, or intricate feathered outfits with or without masks. One important difference between traditional and contemporary moko jumbie costumes or stilt walker/dancer costumes in Africa is that the pants or skirts worn by contemporary Caribbean and United States stilt performers usually cover their stilts. Notice that the mention of "skirts". Unlike earlier Caribbean moko jumbies, and unlike stilt walkers/dancers in certain African nations which are the source of Caribbean and United States moko jumbies, in contemporary Caribbean nations and in the United States females can be moko jumbies.

Additional information about moko jumbies is found in the summary statement for the video given as Example #2 below. However, definite statements about the traditional purpose African stilt walkers/dancers should be taken with a degree of skepticism. It's likely that African stilt walkers/dancers traditionally served multiple purposes depending on the ethnic group including imitating long legged birds, and representing the spiritual realm on earth, and more.

These examples are given in chronological order according to their publishing dates on YouTube with the oldest dated example given first.

Example #1: Laura Anderson Barbata and the Brooklyn Jumbies

Alix Milne Uploaded on Apr 23, 2010

This video provides a glimpse into the collaboration between Mexican artist Laura Anderson Barbata and the Brooklyn Jumbies, a group of stilt dancers whose traditions stem from West Africa and the West Indies. Barbata and the Brooklyn Jumbies began working together in 2006, and their collaboration continues today, with performances and exhibitions for 2010 scheduled in New York, Texas, and Mexico. For more information visit and

Video by Alix Milne
Still Photography by Frank Veronsky

Example #2: Intervention Wall Street by Laura Anderson Barbata and Brooklyn Jumbies. Nov 18,2011

Axel Stein, Uploaded on Nov 18, 2011

Intervention: Wall Street was conceived as a response to the dire economic crisis that became most evident in 2008 which today afflicts not only Americans but has impacted most of the global population. Financial speculation and banking abuses by the largest and most powerful institutions on Wall Street have brought misery to individuals, institutions and to entire countries. In this public performance, Laura Anderson Barbata and the Brooklyn Jumbies brought to the Financial District of New York a world wide practice to remind viewers of the global impact of this crisis and the urgent need to elevate and change the values and practices of the New York Financial Industry.

In Western Africa, Moko is a spirit who watches over his village, and due to his towering height, is able to foresee danger and evil. In Africa, the Moko Jumbie (stilt dancer) is traditionally called in to cleanse and ward off evil spirits that have brought with them disease and misfortune to a village. On the other side of the Atlantic, in Oaxaca, Mexico, the Zancudos (stilt dancers) perform once a year to call upon the power of their saints to receive protection, blessings, and miracles. In the same spirit of warding off evil and seeking a change in the mindset of those causing misfortune, Laura Anderson Barbata and the Brooklyn have intervened on Wall Street.

The performance began on Broadway at Bowling Green and continued uptown to Cedar, across from Zuccotti Park and make its way back.
Moko jumbie performers in the United States almost always serve as entertainment. The involvement of moko jumbies in protest is well outside of the usual function of these performers and occurs during the time that Occupy Wall Street protests were active in the United States. That said, it's interesting to see this form of performance art being used in protest activities.

Example #3: Kaisokah Moko Jumbies U.S.A

qnztrini, Uploaded on Feb 4, 2012
This is a promo video of the stilt dancing group Kultural Youth Moko Jumbies. We do birthday parties, sweet 16, block parties, club events, trade shows, weddings, carnivals, parade etc..
feel free to contact us with any question.
While this video is titled "Kaisokah Moko Jumbies USA", the summary statement identifies the group as "Kultural Youth Moko Jumbies". It's possible that the group changed their name. "Kaisokah Moko Jumbies" is the name of a stilt dancing group from Trinidad & Tobago. (Information about that group is given above). The name "Kaisokah" appears to me to be a clever way of referring to two Trinidadian & Tobagan music forms "kaiso" (calypso) and "soca".

Here's information about Kaisokah USA from their "about us" website page:!about
"Kaisokah Moko Jumbies U.S.A is a stilt dancing group that was formed by three young men in 2010 and shared the love for stilt dancing and there culture. Kaisokah Moko Jumbies U.S.A. has 15 members and growing, ranging from the ages of 7-25. We have members from Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada,Jamaica and with famlies from the different islands like Haiti, and the Domincan Repulbic."

Example #4: West Indian American Day Junior Carnival Parade: Moko Jumbie (#WIADCA)

Zerina Phillip, Published on Aug 31, 2013

A moko jumbie is a stilts walker or dancer.
WIADCA = West Indian American Day Carnival Association:

Example #5: Junkanoo Band Florida Moko Jumbies & Stilt Walkers Stilt Dancers Florida

Rythmtrail Ephraim, Published on Dec 29, 2013

Junkanoo Band in Florida, this Junkanoo Band from RythmTrail performing at a street parade in Miami Florida. You can also book this Junkanoo band with Stilt Dancers or Stilt Walkers also know as Moko Jumbies for your Convention, Party or Wedding anywhere in Florida and Countrywide
"Junkanoo" is a term for a form of street parade that originated in the Bahamas. Junkanoo bands are found in other Caribbean nations and in the United States. Click for a pancocojams post on "Jonkanoo, Gombey, New Orleans Indians, & The Philadelphia Mummers Costume Traditions"

Example #6: African Stilt Walkers' Dance at 2014 Umoja Festival

steelydanforever, Published on Aug 14, 2014

The Kuumba Waoto dance/drum group at the Young Adult Stage
The dance moves and -to a lesser extent- the costumes worn by this group's stilt dancers are probably influenced by traditional African stilt dancers than by Caribbean moko jumbies. That said, one of the stilt dancers in this group is female, and I believe that traditionally all of the African stilt dancers were (and are?) male.

If I'm not mistaken, this particular "Umoja Festival" was in Knoxville, Tennessee (as per online information about the festival and about the Kuumba Watoto dance/drum group.

A number of cities in the United States have African American heritage festivals that include the word "Umoja". "Umoja" is a KiSwahili word that means "unity". "Kuumba Watoto" are KiSwahili words that mean "creative children".

Example #7: Stilt Walkers at Middletown Connecticut caribbean carnival 2014

Trading PhotoS, Videos of Live EventS, Published on Apr 28, 2015

Middletown Connecticut caribbean carnival 2014 in the United States of America.

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