Long legs: A stilt-walker in costume at last year’s Bankra Caribbean Folk Festival in Jamaica, Queens.
Bankra Caribbean Folk Festival

The cultural creatures are reawakening.

The third annual Bankra Caribbean Folk Festival returns to Queens on June 3 for a celebratory homage to the folk history of the region. Next month the rapidly growing event will feature something new for guests and will introduce puppet-sculptures of the mythical Caribbean characters to life with a display of them, said the festival organizer.

“We are expanding the popularity of festival with an effigy park — it’s going to be a large scale puppet display and people will readily identify all the mythical folk characters they grew up hearing about,” said Andrew Clarke.

Colorful sculptures of folkloric creatures such as Trinidadian “djab-djab,” will be at the festival for viewing, and Clarke said it will be an educational experience for festival-goers on the origins of said characters, which he hopes will reconnect them to their roots.

“The showcase will have puppets with a bit of background information about and which island it came from,” he said. “What we want to show is how similar and connected we are as a people. We are from different islands but we grew up hearing about the same characters just different names.”

The festival is one of the rare times that folkloric parts of Caribbean culture are acknowledged on a larger scale and not as a minor aspect of it, said Clarke. And in this multi-cultural affair, there is an opportunity for every country to share that.

“Whenever folk singers perform we are always the warm-up act or on the small stage — never is folk given main stage to showcase at it’s highest level,” said Clarke.

“That’s the reason we give folk artists this platform and we bring all islands to represent to show how diverse Caribbean culture is. We try to showcase length and breadth of that by incorporating a lot of different islands.”

He also says even though the ongoing festival is in the third year, it has been around longer and with the expansion to a street festival, Clarke says he looks forward to the newcomers it will attract and the continued growth of it.

“The folk festival celebrates Caribbean folk culture in its finest form and now we are going to be a street festival,” he said. “We know the attendance will be such a diverse array of folks and we’ll get them just off of Jamaica Avenue —they’ll hear the music and find out about the Bankra Caribbean folk festival.”

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected]local.com.

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