Always one to think out of the box, well-known San Fernando cultural activist Junior Bisnath has chosen a unique way to celebrate his 60th birthday and say thanks to his employers at the Ministry of Works as he retires after 43 years of service.
He turns 60 tomorrow, September 4.
Bisnath, founder of the San Fernando School of Arts Sports and Culture of Henry Street, San Fernando, is doing it the moko jumbie way. On September 10, which he has dubbed Moko Jumbie Day, Bisnath hopes to rally, among other moko jumbies, the hundreds of stilt walkers he has tutored for the last two decades to Skinner Park, San Fernando.
He has chosen this venue to create what, he hopes, will be history, as he will be attempting to better the Guinness Book of World Records’ entry for the largest gathering of moko jumbies in one place. The existing record is 959 stilt-walking students from 17 schools at Winkelhart Spijkenisse, Netherlands, on September 16, 2011.
Bisnath, however, is even more ambitious. Since 2017 is a milestone year for him, his aim is to have 2,017 moko jumbies on show–everyone dressed in national colours of red, white and black.
Early last month, he had just over the 700 mark but to go after the record he needed to get many more moko jumbies.
He invited all interested in being part of this history-making event, including families, clubs and social groups, for daily training in stilt walking for the big day on “second ground” at Skinner Park.
Bisnath said the excitement has quietly built up. He added that among those in training were two senior citizens, 70, and, 78, and he expected stilt walkers from the neighbouring islands, whom he has trained in the past, to return for the event.
For those coming to witness the largest gathering of moko jumbies in the country, Bisnath is asking that they walk with non-perishable food items to donate to the less fortunate. He is also asking for school items such as copy books, pens and pencils.
Spectators will, for the first time, see him mount the stilts in public– he said his stilts would be built out of matchsticks “and matchsticks alone.”
In an interview with Sunday Newsday, Bisnath said: “This is my way of saying thanks to God, family, friends and employer for the support over the years.”
For the past 22 years, Bisnath has been changing lives not only in his community and environs but across the length and breath of TT and even the region through the art form of stilt walking. He has turned his home at Henry Street into a school and the street has become a training ground.
At any given time, students could be seen practising up and down the hills of San Fernando. Bisnath boasts of a presence of the art form in most public and private schools whether at the level of kindergarten, primary or secondary school.
His motto remains Say yes to life–Get high on stilts.
“Everybody wants to walk stilts, it’s like the latest craze,” Bisnath told Sunday Newsday as he went on to explain how popular the art has become. “When a parent or a teacher brings a child to train, the adults themselves get involved and learn to walk.”
Moko jumbies are part of most national celebrations. Bisnath said he worked with a number of local celebrities who were in love with the art form.
“It is not a grass-roots thing,” he added. “I often privately train the children of some of the nation’s leading personalities to walk on stilts. Moko jumbie is big.”
Moko jumbies are in demand and he now trains as many as 100 stilt walkers in a day.
Training starts for children from as early as three years of age. One of his sons began walking on stilts at the age of 11 months. He is now 16 years and one of the leading stilt walkers in the country.
The San Fernando School of the Arts, Sports and Culture has a core of 40 strong and disciplined stilt walkers who are often called upon to fly the flag both home and abroad. He said discipline was key in the school as only the best of his students would be allowed to represent the organisation.
“Yes, my students have to be at the top of their game to be on the road,” Bisnath said. “I do not tolerate indiscipline.”
On Moko Jumbie Day in Skinner Park, Bisnath will have the support of steelband, calypso and mas.
“Traditional mas is getting the support as we attempt to break the world record,” he said.
Bisnath has received the blessings of the San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello and the San Fernando City Council in his latest endeavour.
Regrello said, “As a hard-working San Fernandian, we are supporting him. He has been a soldier for the art form over the years and has kept San Fernando on the map.”
Interested persons can contact 364-2706/750-3301 or email junior_bisnath @yahoo.com Facebook: juniorbisnath/whatsapp