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Run when you see a Moko Jumbie. Growing up in Trinidad, I remember being afraid of the Moko Jumbie and the jab-jab or blue devils. “The earliest moko-jumbies were simply spirits made up as women”, also known as the stilt man.
The original Moko Jumbie was a spirit dancer from West Africa. “Moko” is a West African word that refers to gods, and “Jumbie” means ghost. In West Africa, Moko Jumbies are known to kidnap and eat disobedient children, steal dreams and see into evildoers’ hearts and terrorize them.
Moko Jumbi Historical Context
The word “Moko” is derived from the Yoruba language and means “spirit,” while “jumbie” is a Trinidadian term for a ghost or spirit. The Moko jumbie is believed to have been originally performed during times of celebration and ritual, as well as for protection from evil spirits.
The Moko Jumbie is a traditional stilt-walking dance that originated in Trinidad and Tobago. This cultural tradition has been passed down through generations and is essential to Trinidadian culture. In this blog post, we will explore the history and significance of the Moko Jumbie in Trinidad and Tobago.
The History of the Moko Jumbie
The Moko Jumbie can be traced back to West Africa, where stilt walking was a common practice. The practice was brought to Trinidad and Tobago during slavery and was used as entertainment for plantation owners. Over time, the practice evolved to include using stilts as a form of spiritual protection and to ward off evil spirits.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the Moko Jumbie became essential to Carnival, the country’s most famous festival. The Moko Jumbie was also used in other cultural events and celebrations, such as weddings and funerals. In various parts of the Caribbean the Moko-Jumbie is known by various names. In the Eastern Caribbean “bwa-bwa”, Mother Sally in Guyana, Seraphina in St Lucia and Tilt Man in Barbados.
The Significance of the Moko Jumbie
The Moko Jumbie is more than just a form of entertainment. It is also a symbol of spiritual protection and cultural identity. The stilt-walker, often dressed in bright, colourful clothing and a mask, is believed to have a special connection with the spirit world. This connection is thought to give the Moko Jumbie the ability to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck to those around them.
The Moko Jumbie is also a symbol of cultural identity and pride. The practice has been passed down through generations, and many young people are encouraged to learn the dance and become Moko Jumbies themselves. The dance is a way to connect with one’s cultural heritage and keep traditional practices alive.
The Modern Day Moko Jumbie
Today, the Moko Jumbie is still an essential part of Trinidadian culture. It is often performed at Carnival and other cultural events and has even gained international recognition. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the Moko Jumbie as more and more young people have become interested in learning the dance and carrying on the tradition.
Various words and phrases from Trinidad & Tobago can be traced back to English, French, African, Hindi, and Spanish origins. For instance, growing up in Trinidad and Tobago is fascinating because the slang can change over time. I have lived in the United States for 20+ years now, and every time I travel back to Trinidad and Tobago, I have to reacquaint myself with the words and phrases that have emerged.
Finally, Trini folklore, such as Papa Bois, is an oral tradition to pass on the next generation’s stories. Other Trini phrases in the vocabulary are Ganga Channa, Bad John, Goat-Mouth, Quito-Quito and Under Bamboo.
Trinidad and Tobago boasts a rich and diverse cultural heritage, and one of its most fascinating aspects is the country’s oral traditions. These traditions include storytelling, music, song, and dance, and they have been passed down through generations. The indigenous peoples of Trinidad and Tobago, including the Amerindians and the Caribs, have contributed to developing these traditions, which have also been influenced by the country’s African, European, and East Indian heritage.
Another critical aspect of the country’s oral traditions is its folktales, which are stories passed down orally through generations. These tales often feature fantastical elements, and they are used to teach important lessons about life and morality.
Overall, Trinidad and Tobago’s oral traditions are vibrant and integral to the country’s culture. They reflect the diverse influences that have shaped the country’s history and continue to play an essential role in Trinidadian and Tobagonian life today.
The Moko Jumbie is a unique and vital part of Trinidadian culture. It is a symbol of spiritual protection, cultural identity, and pride. The tradition has been passed down through generations and is an integral part of Trinidadian culture today. As the world changes and evolves, it is essential to remember and celebrate cultural traditions like the Moko Jumbie, which remind us of our shared history and cultural heritage.
Featured Image By: RAPSO Imaging, Photo by Manyu Varma on Unsplash
Sources: Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage
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