One of the oldest parts of the cultural heritage of the Virgin Islands dates back to a time when enslaved Africans were brought to St. Croix over 400 years ago. Part of their culture that they brought with them was the practice of mocko jumbie. Mocko jumbies are traditional stilt dancers that dress in colorful clothing and wear a mask. When we see them at cultural celebrations, private parties and other special events, they are an immediate reminder of Virgin Islands history, heritage and culture. The word ‘moko’ comes from a Central African language meaning healer and ‘jumbie’ means ghost or spirit. Many African tribes view mocko jumbies as seekers, protectors or guardians of their village. Their height, which symbolizes the power of God, was believed to be their way of seeing evil before it arrived and would allow them to warn other villagers.

Here in the Virgin Islands, we call mocko jumbies the guardians of our culture. A performance troupe of the same name has been dedicated to preserving the art of stilt dancing in the Virgin Islands since 1979. Grooming and shaping the future generation of traditional stilt dancers, Guardians of Culture Moko Jumbies is led by Virgin Islander Willard John who is often heard saying “the best way to preserve culture is to live it.” They infuse Caribbean excitement and Crucian flavor for private parties, weddings and cultural events. They meet, greet, perform, inform and interact for the delight of any audience.

John has trained over 400 young Virgin Islanders the traditional art of Moko Jumbie, volunteering his time, energy and undying love to the preservation of Virgin Islands culture. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, John, the Guardians of Culture staff and his team of volunteers continue to do their part in keeping this rich Virgin Islands tradition alive. Senior ranking Jumbies gather weekly to teach, fix stilts and give guidance to up-and-coming Jumbies. As a 100% volunteer and donorbased organization, Guardians of Culture Moko Jumbies rely on the support and sponsorship of people and businesses of the Virgin Islands community. They are currently raising funds to support the building project at their practice home in the Schjang ballpark in Estate St. John. Every Saturday from 9:30am-12:30pm, you can find the Guardians of Culture Moko Jumbies preserving the Virgin Islands culture the only way they know how – where “each one teach one!” To see them in action and to learn more, follow them on Facebook at

Article written by Anquanette Gaspard ( for Coldwell Banker, St. Croix Realty

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