The Moko Jumbie has been a cultural symbol in the Virgin Islands for over 200 years, and is even found on the logo for the US Virgin Islands Dept. of Tourism. The tradition of the Moko Jumbie can be traced back to Africa, and is fully embraced as a staple of the Virgin Islands heritage.
Frequently seen at celebrations of all kinds; men, women, and children can be found perched high up on stilts, dressed in bright colors and often wearing masks. It is commonly believed that Moko Jumbies were originally used to ward off evil spirits, or ‘jumbies’, by making a mockery of them. The highlight of Moko Jumbie culture in the Virgin Islands is definitely Carnival season, with each of the three main US Virgin Islands holding their own Carnival celebrations throughout the year. The stilt dancers are found in parades, troupes, and various other festivities!
There are many different skill levels, ages, and even stilt heights to be found throughout the islands. It is not uncommon to see a group of Moko Jumbies during a carnival parade that range in age from 7 to 50 years old! They are always a delight for the crowds- locals and visitors alike! The high-spirited entertainers can lead huge crowds of people in dance and laughter.
Many local establishments host their own version of Carnival to entertain tourists throughout the year, usually featuring a Moko Jumbie. Iggies Beach Bar and Grill and Bolongo Bay Beach Resort have been hosting a Carnival Night every Wednesday night for 40 years! One of the highlights of the evening is always the performance by their Moko Jumbie. This interactive show brings guests up on stage with the dazzling performer, as they dance on one stilt and perform other incredible tricks. If you’re lucky, they might even teach the crowd a few dance moves!