Discovering St Kitts’ Carnival of Culture

24 March 2012

The culture on St Kitts has been shaped by numerous different countries to become something unique to the island. Much of the folk culture revolves around Moko-jumbies, masquerades and clowns.

Clowns traditionally perform around Christmas time, and you'll typically see around 50 players in colourful suits decorated with bells. They often wear a pink wire mesh mask which hides the face of the performer, and apparently is meant to depict Europeans.

The Moko-jumbies are something completely different, and are part of West African culture. They are stilt walkers who celebrate West African mythology, and it's thought the name Moko came from the God of vengeance. Others believe Moko refers to the macaw, which is a tall palm tree covered with thorns, as the dancers wear headdresses which resemble the macaw plant when in full bloom. Whatever their origins, they perform wearing long dresses, balanced on 6 to 8 inch stilts.

Masquerades are combination of European and African influences which have gradually evolved over several hundred years, and the masquerade is one of the most popular performances during the carnival. Performers wear headdresses decorated with tall peacock feathers, and the costumes are finished with mirrors, ribbons and bangles. Researchers have identified the dances as having both African and European influences, and all of these traditions are very entertaining and interesting to watch.

The main carnival on St Kitts begins in late December, and includes numerous pageants and parades and festivities which carry on into the New Year. It's a great time to be on St Kitts, especially because the weather is warm and dry, making it the perfect winter escape.

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