A trio of iconic moko jumbies was recently planted on St. Thomas at Yacht Haven Grande. “A gift from my creator for a gift to the people of the V.I. and visitors alike,” explains sculptor Edney L. Freeman.
The three moko jumbies were created by Freeman starting in 2018 when Virgin Islands Council on the Arts Executive Director Tasida K. Kelch was searching for someone to create some sculptures at the request of IGY Marinas Executive Vice President of Real Estate and Business Development Eric Simonton.
She found Freeman across the street from the VICA offices standing in front of Fort Christian repeating his marriage vows with his wife. After waiting patiently for the ceremony to end, Kelch asked Freeman if he would consider the project. Four years later, the results are available for everyone to see.
A son of the Virgin Islands, Freeman was born on St. Thomas in Savan. He holds a master’s degree from Rochester Institute of Technology School for American Crafts, majoring in Sculptural Ceramics (1995) and a bachelor of liberal arts degree from the City College of New York.
A plaque near the moko jumbies in YHG says, “I dedicate these sculptures to the memory of my first encounter in the 50s with Mocko Jumbie Magnus John Farrell who also used a homemade whip made from thrashed and braided ‘Snake’ plants (also called Lizard Tails).”
Today’s moko jumbies stand on the shoulders of those past culture bearers who have evolved this great performance dance form. “I am thankful to be able to share this offering with my people,” said Freeman. “I thank the visionary certainty of Island Global Yachting for their confidence, support and betting on me to deliver these sculptures.”
The sculptures were cast in silicon bronze and stand between 10 feet and 12 feet, weighing from 498 pounds to 617 pounds. A three-color patina was hot applied to each sculpture and subsequently waxed to preserve its finish. The moko jumbies were installed at ground level so visitors could better interact with the sculptures.
Previously, Freeman made two life-sized bronze sculptures: Mocko Jumbie with Tourist at the World Sculpture Park, and Tropical Masquerader with Whip at the Technology Park in Chang Chung, China. His work has been displayed at El Museo de Las Americas in Puerto Rico, Mattye Reid African Art Center in Greensboro, North Carolina, Geneseo State College in upstate New York, and the University of Rochester.
In 2008-09, Freeman was selected as the first male recipient of the USVI Territorial State Teacher of the Year Award.
He has created an original patented Chess Set featuring uniquely designed Caribbean motifs. His latest works include the Shield Series where the African shield form is used to convey universal messages, and the Slave Tag Series, in which the American brand of enslaved Africans of antebellum South Carolina is captured in clay and sheet copper.
Co-founder of the Association of Virgin Islands Visual Art Educators, Freeman has also been affiliated in various capacities with the School of Visual Arts and Careers, a St. Thomas after-school art program for gifted and talented students since its inception.
Freeman’s sculptural and ceramics work can be found in the homes of prominent art collectors in the USVI and other international locations. His passion is to produce and promote art and sculpture.