Trinidad and Tobago "MOKO JUMBIES: The Dancing Spirits of Trinidad"
(Rodney Barrow - right -, in his custom-made White Bat costume, deploys his fabric wings in front of John Sterling, who is testing his Jumbie Bat gear as the rays of the setting sun outline the stunning shapes of the twenty foot wingspan.)
A photo essay about a stilt walking school in Cocorite, Trinidad.
Dragon Glen de Souza founded the Keylemanjahro School of Art & Culture in 1986. The main purpose of the school is to keep children off the streets and away from drugs.
He first taught dances like the Calypso, African dance and the jig with his former partner Cathy Ann Samuel. Searching for other activities to engage the children in, he rediscovered the art of stilt-walking, a tradition known in West Africa as the Moko Jumbies , protectors of the villages and participants in religious ceremonies. The art was brought to Trinidad by the slave trade and soon forgotten.
Today Dragonâs school has over 100 members from age 4 and up.
His 2 year old son Mutawakkil is probably the youngest Moko Jumbie ever. The stilts are made by Dragon and his students and can be as high as 12-15 feet. The children show their artistic talents mostly at the annual Carnival, which today is unthinkable without the presence of the Moko Jumbies. A band can have up to 80 children on stilts and they have won many of the prestigious prizes and trophies that are awarded by the National Carnival Commission. Designers like Peter Minshall , Brian Mac Farlane and Laura Anderson Barbata create dazzling costumes for the school which are admired by thousands of spectators. Besides stilt-walking the children learn the limbo dance, drumming, fire blowing and how to ride unicycles.
The school is situated in Cocorite, a suburb of Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago.
all images Â© Stefan Falke