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Mocko Jumbie Spreads Warm V.I. Vibes to Potential Visitors

Dec. 16, 2008 — Step back, Gnome, Green Giant and Gecko: The territory's mocko jumbie is on the loose and inviting new visitors from all over the world to the beautiful Virgin Islands.
The mocko jumbie is the new face of V.I. tourism. The new logo was selected after the V.I. Department of Tourism reviewed dozens of designs.
Mocko jumbies are stilt dancers who masquerade as good spirits and are part of the masquerading tradition that spans several hundred years, according to Myron D. Jackson, the executive director of the V.I. Cultural Heritage Institute.
"Mocko" and "jumbie" are African words. Mocko means to mock, and jumbie means spirit.
The mocko jumbie is supposed to bring prosperity to societies and villages and ward off evil, Jackson said. The territory has some of the tallest jumbie performers in the world, he said.
"In essence, their height represents their ability to be clairvoyant over that society and be able to see beyond the physical world and into the spiritual world," Jackson said.
Even though they still have that function, they are first to open celebrations such as Carnival, he said.
The new logo is part of a process of rebranding the Tourism Department has implemented, employing the services of Atlanta-based advertising agency J. Walter Thompson, according to Tourism's director of communications, Allegra Kean-Moorehead.
Using focus groups and other marketing tools, the department discovered that its former push to promote the territory's accessibility to the U.S. was a secondary priority for tourists, Kean-Moorehead said.
Potential markets were a lot more interested in the islands' beauty and the vast variety of activities that can be pursued here, more so than on other Caribbean islands.
"We are a vibrant place with lots to do, and each island is very unique," Kean-Moorehead said. "Being an American territory was secondary to those things."
The leggy — or stilty — and very colorful mocko jumbie logo shows hands tossing three stars up into the sky, with their size and placement representative of the relative geography of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. The design beat out others that used words with different colors and different fonts, and others with graphics.
The mocko jumbie logo also has potential to become popular at home in the territory.
"It’s a cultural icon that we can all identify with," Kean-Moorehead said. "We thought the local community would embrace it."
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