New York-based photographer Stefan Falke began working on his long-term documentary project about a stilt-walking school in Trinidad in the late’ 90s. The main purpose of the Keylemanjahro School of Art & Culture founded by “Dragon” Glen de Souza is to keep children off the streets and away from drugs. Falke, fascinated by the efforts of the school’s founder and his young students, continued to travel to Trinidad over seven years and became a fixture at the school. He’s involvement resulted in the photo essay “MOKO JUMBIES: The Dancing Spirits of Trinidad” exhibited at the photo journalism festival in Perpignan, France, and a book published in New York with the same name by Pointed Leaf Press.
Kwasi Lyons tries to identify his stilts by the sneakers, which have been glued onto the stilts. Each child is asked to supply his or her own shoes, which is sometimes a sacrifice for the parents.
In Cocorite, Rodney Barrow dons a variation of the traditional Midnight Robber costume, designed by the Mexican artist Laura Anderson Barbata.
Dragon Glen De Souza’s 2-year-old son Mutawakkil is the youngest MokoJumbie in the yard. He loves to be on stilts as he watches the older students, who in turn teach and protect him. His mother Luanna Williams, left, herself an experienced Moko Jumbie, always stays close.
Rodney Barrow practices the choreography for his portrayal of the Midnight Robber in a back alley in Cocorite. Costume design by Laura Anderson Barbata.
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 20-foot wingspan. Costume design by Laura Anderson Barbata.
Jameel Neptune dances in anticipation of being part of the Midnight Robber section of the Keylemanjahro School during the Junior Carnival.
Students practice Limbo dancing and jumps in the yard. When two students lift one leg towards each other and hold onto it, another child can move below the legs Limbo style. Only experienced Moko Jumbies can perform this difficult dance.
Melissa Brown is raised onto her stilts by Chester Bacchus and Roland Williams.
Stefan Falke lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is currently trying to find funding for his latest project “La Frontera: Artists along the US Mexican Border.” Believing in the importance of showing the vibrant cultural activities in a region that the international media only reports about when violent crimes are committed, he plans to travel the entire length of the border to photograph artists. To learn more about Falke’s latest works visit: www.stefanfalke.com.