Monday, May 28, 2007

bermuda's gombeys

The Gombeys make their appearance on Bermuda Day & during the summer Harbour Nights, every Wednesday. Hugely popular among tourists & locals alike, they are Bermuda's very own cultural icons. The word Gombey is an African word meaning 'rhythm' & their dances, created by the slaves during the 17th century are borrowed from African, American Indian & Caribbean cultures with influences from the British Military & English Mummers.

Gombeys came about during the days of slavery. Many slaves were not allowed to partake in their traditional African dances & those that were, were brutally punished by their owners. That's when they incorporated the use of masks to hide their identities as partook in the Gombey festivitie
s. With the masks, the owners could not identify which slaves were theirs, giving the Gombeys the liberty to dance to their heart's content. The hats are topped off with peacock feathers & are also colourful & elaborate much like the rest of the Gombey costume, which is heavily influenced by Native American tradition. Their capes are elaborate featuring mirrored glass placed to a certain pattern, much like the traditional clothing culture of Northern India. Today some have their costumes personalized to their liking, with one young dancer even featuring SpongeBobSquarePants on his hat & cape.

The main characters in the group of dancers are the Captain, the Chief, the Trapper & the Wild Indian, all playing their part to demonstrate oppression, combat & celebration with each dance having its own song. Some carry tomahawks & shields.

Gombeys are not exclusive to Bermuda. The West Indies is the inspiration for the Gombey dance as many of Bermuda's original Gombey dancers originated from St. Kitts. I love watching the little two to six year olds that take part in the Gombey dance, while the youngest ones unsure & perhaps a bit uncoordinated from the rest of the team, are definitely entertaining & lively to look at. Attached is a collage of Gombey shots taken at last October's Gombey Festival. In addition, for your viewing pleasure, VIDEOS of the Gombey's various dances are featured from Bermuda Day 2005, Harbour Nights - Summer 2006 & the Bda Gombey Festival - Oct 2006. Enjoy!

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