The Culture of St. Kitts

Clowns and other mythological figures represent a key part of St. Kitts' culture

Photo credit: © shuklanishant

Culture of St. Kitts

Culture and daily life on the little islands of St. Kitts and Nevis have been shaped by many different countries, but the people of this dual nation have forged a heritage that is distinctly their own. From art and music to cuisine and linguistic expressions, the people of St. Kitts and Nevis have always found unique ways to express their individuality.

Folk Culture

Clowns, Moko-Jumbies, and masquerades make up a large part of St. Kitts' folk culture, providing entertainment and an insight into a past documented by hundreds of years of celebrations. Clown troupes perform during Christmas time and consist of approximately 50 players providing fun and entertainment for spectators while donning loose colorful clown suits decorated with bells that jingle while the clowns perform swinging dances. A pink wire mesh mask to hide the face of the performer is also part of the costume. This affectation is meant to depict Europeans. A band of musicians plays while the clowns perform, punctuating the actions of dancers.

...Moko-Jumbies, or stilt walkers...


Originating in West Africa, Moko-Jumbies, or stilt walkers, are a favorite part of the celebration of culture on St. Kitts. These figures have been passed on from West African mythology, and the name Moko is thought to have originated from the name of the god of vengeance, while others believe that Moko comes from Macaw, which is a tall palm tree covered with thorns. This belief is derived from the headdresses Moko-Jumbie dancers wear that are designed to resemble the heart of the macaw plant when it is in bloom. Moko-dancers wear long dresses and perform wearing 6- to 8-inch stilts that continue to thrill and amuse spectators.

The masquerade art form is a combination of African and European influences that have been evolving over the past 300 years. Masquerade is one of the most popular sports performed during Carnival. Kittitian performers wear headdresses adorned with exquisite tall peacock feathers, masks, trousers, and long-sleeved shirts. The costumes of the masqueraders are decorated with bangles, mirrors, and ribbons. Elements of their dances have been identified as having both European and African influences, with reflections of the waltz, jig, wild mas, and quadrille.

Carnival and Culturama

Carnival on St. Kitts brings the islanders together to commemorate the mixture of the many customs and traditions that have shaped the island's heritage and background over many centuries. St. Kitts' Carnival begins on the evening of Dec. 19 at the opening gala of the Grand Market. During this spectacular event, many festivities are held, including competitions, pageants, and parades. Among the most anticipated events are the Soca and Senior Monarch Competitions, the National Carnival Queen Pageant, the Junior Calypso Show, and the famous Miss Caribbean Talented Teen Pageant.

The Culturama event is held on Nevis during Emancipation Day weekend, when people of every social and economic background come together for a seven-day celebration of history and creativity. The festival began in 1974, when islanders who were worried that traditional art forms were dying out decided to take steps toward reviving interest in island folk art and customs. The action-packed five-day exposition of arts, crafts, music, drama, and calypso also includes fashion shows, parties, dances, boat rides, swimsuit contests, street jams, and many more exciting events.


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