Is Best Ah Walk
Article for AMCHAM's Linkage Magazine (October 2018)
When I was 6 there was a bicycle in the garage that I learnt how to ride. It took a little while, fell a lot, but I eventually found my balance and was able to ride the bike. I spent a good part of my childhood on a bicycle; I stopped as a teenager, but then rode a bike everyday in university. Riding a bicycle is something you feel compelled to pass on. That feeling of balance and movement — a sense of play and grace — its something you share, so you do.
There’s a study that says a midsized car gets a little over half a mile per kilocalorie of energy. A human walking gets 10 miles per kilocalorie. If we exclude the cost of the car, the cost of the road, and the cost of the infrastructure we build for fueling, walking is still 20 times as efficient as driving (Illich 1976: 6). That said, a human on a bicycle is even MORE efficient. A human on a bicycle gets 25 miles per kilocalorie, the equivalent of 750 miles per gallon or about 320 kilometres per litre. There’s power in human energy. As the band 3 Canal says, “…every time you walk, you vibrate the space.”
In Woodbrook, Port of Spain, I help run #1000mokos. We’re a group of friends that meet up regularly on Sundays (since January 2017) to teach people how to walk on stilts. It’s really about walking. However, what sustains this activity, more than anything else, is our culture — more specifically Carnival. The project blurs the boundaries of Traditional Mas with community, by introducing stilt-walking to the public. The joy of walking, and thrill of being on sticks, is reframed in the context of the Moko Jumbie — part of our West African identity. It’s participation.
We teach wherever there is public space, preferably in a yard. Be it somebody’s house or in a school. Anyone is welcome. There’s a spirit of generosity that defines these Sundays, better known as Sticks In De Yard sessions. By generosity I mean an underlying attention to one another, each one teach one. From volunteers, children, parents and neighbours. Woodbrook is like that — a place where community grows. This spirit of generosity is nurtured every time we get together to walk. As my friend Damir said, it's more than a means to stilt walk. The story of the Moko Jumbie is critical to building our community. It brings shared values. A way for many of us to connect to something bigger — by connecting to each other. Art connects.
From early on, the ethos for #1000mokos has been Sticks like Bikes. Sharing what we know through play and grace. Be it on bicycles, or stilts. We find power in walking. On roads and in public space. By our participation in arts and culture, we are part of a bigger story that connects everyone who comes to the yard to learn to walk, so we do.