Out of the Studio and Into Action: Laura Anderson Barbata and the Brooklyn Jumbies in NY and Fort Worth, Texas, 2008

by Laura Anderson Barbata

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The fantastical garments Anderson Barbata creates for stilt-dancers can accommodate heights from 12 to 20 feet in the air, and empower the performers with costumed identities. Their totemic presence connects onlookers to rituals of the ancestral realm and other narratives that reflect on the environment, indigenous cultures, and religious cosmologies.

Following her work in the Caribbean, Anderson Barbata began collaborating in 2007 with the Brooklyn Jumbies (led by Najja Codrington and Ali Sylvester) who host educational workshops in New York’s Bedford-Stuyvesant and Flatbush neighborhoods and contribute to the popular Junior Carnival West Indian Day Parade on Labor Day weekend. Like de Souza, the Brooklyn Jumbies hail from the Moko Jumbie tradition of stilt dancing originated in West Africa, where towering figures ward off evil spirits from the village; “Moko” means to mock and “Jumbies” are ghosts.

In her garments for the Brooklyn Jumbies, Anderson Barbata recycles textiles from past projects with newer materials sourced locally in markets and from Mexico and New York.

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