Moko Jumbie is a tale of forbidden love between an Afro-Caribbean boy, Roger, and Asha, an East Indian girl, on a coconut plantation in Trinidad, a twin-island nation of the Caribbean. Director Vashti Anderson brilliantly uses this nucleus to weave the story of indentured East Indian labor replacing African slave labor and the socio-economic legacy that it imparts. All the taboos of inter-racial bonding are projected in the scary supernatural images of grey ethereal Moko Jumbies, guardian spirits of the African slaves who crossed the Atlantic Ocean and emerged tall and stilt-legged. These spirits dog Asha’s every intention as she seeks to relate to Roger.
Asha’s cultural roots are challenged on every level: by the music of the pan yard, the wanton Gloria, Roger’s lecherous Uncle, and even by her Aunt Mary. It is only with the help of her spirit guide, Jagessar, that she is finally able to understand who she really is as an Indo-Trinidadian. It is this strength that gives her the courage to fight for her relationship with Roger, and her Moko Jumbies are transformed into colourful, vital dancing Carnival spirits that both she and Roger experience fully.
The excellent photography of cameraman Schlomo Godder reveals the underbelly of rural Trinidad: Roger’s poor shanty juxtaposed with Aunt Mary’s concrete and glass house; the swaying palms amidst the rutted unlit roads, and the alluvial effulgence of Trinidad’s shared waters with the mighty Orinoco. The camera pans slowly reflecting the timelessness of island life, and the Trini lingo crackles with wit and wisdom.
Moko Jumbie made its mark for the third time as the opening film at MISAFF 2017 (Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival) in August shortly after its world premier at the LA Film Festival. The film was selected for the Filmmaker Immersion Program at the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival, and was awarded Best Screenplay at MISAFF.
by: Rubyha McKenzie
Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Rubyha after much travel, study, and teaching, settled in Canada. Her first published work was “As the Canque Flows,” in a 1970 SAG publication; the second, “Rahattan’s Necklace,” appeared in the NAAC magazine. She has, over the past three years produced a collection of poems, short stories, and commentaries, reflecting the rich diversity of her experiences, her unique rhythm, and an idiom that is anchored in the imagery of a Caribbean woman. Rubyha currently facilitates a creative writing group in Mississauga, Ontario.