UNESCO partners with Funtopia youth initiative to stimulate cultural heritage activities in schools

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PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Sint Maarten National Commission for UNESCO has partnered with the Funtopia Youth Initiative Foundation to launch the pilot afterschool program for introducing the Art of Stilt walking and Moko Jumbie culture in primary schools as an extra-curricular activity. This initiative is a part of UNESCO and the Ministry of Education Culture Youth and Sport (Culture Department) aim to stimulate local institutions to engage in the preservation of the intangible cultural heritage (ICH) attributes of Sint Maarten.

The program is being held at the Sister Borgia Primary School where several Catholic Schools and Oranje school students come together to participate on Wednesday afternoons. Participating students are between the ages of 6 and 11 years old. In the first week, the students learnt what is stilt walking and its African origin and Caribbean adaption through a video documentary and open discussion.

The documentary shown was received from the Carnival Institute of Trinidad and Tobago entitled “The March of the Mokos”, the film was written and directed by Kim Johnson. Johnson has given the Funtopia Youth Initiative Foundation permission to show the documentary to educate the youth as they begin their journey to join the Caribbean culture of Moko Jumbies.

The pilot program will run for a period of three months. After which the students who have participated will be able to give a presentation displaying their learnt skills for their schools. Funtopia Youth Initiative Foundation aims to be able to have this extracurricular activity integrated in all primary schools with hopes to keep this cultural tradition alive.

The Funtopia Youth Initiative Foundation has been actively training young persons in the community in this art form since 2014. The organization has trained many local teenagers to stilt walk over the last seven (7) years. Most of our walkers have been seen during carnival and regatta festivals, at hotels and other events in vibrant colorful costumes performing stunts and dance routines.

“Our Stilt walkers have had countless opportunities to travel to various Caribbean islands such as: Dominica, Saba, St. Eustatius and Anguilla to participate in their festivals. We are elated to have had one of our members participate in Belgium circus act as a professional stilt walker. We have now arrived at this point in our development to join other Caribbean island Moko Jumbies by renaming our stilt walking group to the Soualigan Giants Moko Jumbies. We are also setting out to develop our own documentary that will tell the story of how our St. Martin walkers came to be,” said founder and president Lucinda Audain.

“The Sint Maarten National Commission for UNESCO is very proud of the work that Ms. Lucinda Audain has been doing to preserve this aspect of St. Martin’s cultural heritage, and therefore, our office will continue to support the Funtopia organization in its effort to have this extracurricular activity integrated in all primary schools ensuring that this aspect of St. Martin’s intangible cultural heritage lives on,” said Marcellia Henry, Secretary General for Sint Maarten National Commission for UNESCO.