During the latter part of August, the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts contacted me and asked if my art students at the St. Croix Educational Complex and I would design twelve plastic ornaments for the National Christmas tree. We were commissioned to design ornaments to represent the Virgin Islands on the National Christmas tree which is located on the White House grounds in Washington D. C.. After receiving the ornaments my students and I began brainstorming, developing designs, and then drawing the images. This project took about three weeks to complete. We chose to depict Virgin Islands cultural traditions such as the mocko jumbie dancer, quadrille dance, and steel pan music. We drew images with Sharpie markers and applied frost spray paint.
The Virgin Islands Council on the Arts was so impressed with our artwork that we were asked to design ten more ornaments for the Virgin Islands governor Kenneth E. Mapp and his cabinet members for Christmas. This is the submitted write up for our project: Art educator Danica M. David and her St. Croix Educational Complex High School students live on the Caribbean Island of St. Croix, USVI. They chose to share snippets of the unique cultural traditions of the Virgin Islands through the stained glass art form.
These traditions include the mocko jumbie dancer, quadrille dance, and the steel pan music. A mocko jumbie is a stilt-walking dancer, which originated in West African almost 200 years ago. “Mocko” means to mock and “jumbie” means spiritual protector. Quadrille dance is the traditional dance of the Virgin Islands. The dance is performed by partners of two in groups of six or more people. Quadrille dance is similar to American Square dance. However, quadrille originated in France during 1700’s and made its way to the Virgin Islands. It became popular during colonialism. The steel pan or drum which creates steel pan music, originated in Trinidad during the 1930’s. The very first steel pans were built from recycled oil barrels. Modern-day steel pans are made from steel containers. Enslaved Africans brought this tradition to Trinidad during the 1700’s. Steel pan music made its way to the Virgin Islands around the 1950's.
Today, residents and visitors enjoy mocko jumbie dancers, quadrille dancers, steel pan music at festivals, school performances, and during carnival time. Below is an excerpt from the National Christmas Tree website: Every year one-of-a-kind ornaments are made by ordinary Americans, representing every U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia. These 56 artists give their time and talents to design and create ornaments that symbolize the history, heritage and culture of their homelands. The America Celebrates display, which surrounds the National Christmas Tree, is free and open to visitors throughout the month.
Related link: http://thenationaltree.org/america-celebrates/