Gombey Festival To Kick Off Next Week

September 28, 2018

The Department of Community and Cultural Affairs is inviting the public to come out and enjoy the 2018 Bermuda International Gombey Festival, which runs from October 4 to October 7.

A spokesperson said, “The public may recall that the event was expanded last year from a one-day event to an entire weekend.”

Minister of Social Development and Sports Michael Weeks said, “I want to encourage the public to come out and enjoy this dazzling, energetic, cultural display. To have so many of the troupes gather together in celebration of our proud heritage is an opportunity not to be missed.

“The Gombey Festival is held annually to provide continued exposure to the folk art traditions of this important cultural heritage. The Gombey is an iconic symbol of Bermuda, reflecting the island’s blend of African, indigenous peoples, Caribbean and British cultures, incorporating them over time into a unique performance art, full of colourful and intricate masquerade, dance and drumming.”

Slideshow from last year’s Gombey Festival:


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“The traditions have been passed down orally from one generation to the next within families and the Captains of each troupe determine the direction of the troupe and style that is taught.

“Thus within troupes there can be found subtle but distinct differences in beats, dances, costumes, headdresses, by which they can each be recognised. Freedom dance, junkanoo, cockfights, biblical stories, slow dance, fast dance, snake dance, and rushing back are all elements to watch for when observing a Gombey performance.”

“Overseas guests attending the 2018 Bermuda International Gombey Festival include the mask-wearing Shortknee from Grenada and Mr. Zayd Saleem from the Moko Jumbie of the US Virgin Islands who will be performing at the Showcase on Saturday.

“The mask-wearing Shortknee is the most compelling icon of Grenada’s annual Carnival, drawing on masquerade traditions that have been made in Grenada and the Caribbean, Europe and Africa. The Shortknee wears a wire screen mask over a powder-whitened face; players sing in the familiar ‘call and response’ style.

“Shortknee bands do not have a musical section; instead they make rhythmic stomping with the bells around their ankles. Many Shortknee songs point to the character’s self-appointed role as moral police, viewing Carnival as a place to ritualize social relations and, indeed, strengthen social bonds.

“Moko Jumbies have been in the Virgin Island’s cultural heritage for over 200 years and can be traced to Africa as far back as the 13th and 14th centuries. They are viewed as symbols of history, culture, and heritage. West Africans view a Moko Jumbie as a seeker or a protector and their tallness is symbolic of the power of God. These characters make long strides and are balanced on stilts that can be from ten to fifteen feet in height.

“Also featuring in the festival are the Bermuda Donquili – a local group that learn and celebrate the traditional drum beats and dances of West Africa.

The line-up of events for the weekend:

Thursday, October 4, 2018: Made in Bermuda Nights: Gombey Festival Edition

  • Location: Fort Hamilton
  • Time: 7:00 PM – 11:00 PM
  • Cost: Tickets are $40 and available on ptix.bm. Food will also be available for purchase.
  • Details: Your favourite live music event series by PinkSand Entertainment is back for the fall at Fort Hamilton! Sponsored in-part by the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, this event features home-grown talent including the Wall Street Band and DJ Chubb. Enjoy the truly Bermudian atmosphere of the historic fort punctuated with modern décor and music that will have you vibing all night long.

Friday, October 5, 2018: Dance of the Diaspora: Gombey Festival Film Showcase

  • Location: Speciality Cinema
  • Time: 6:00 PM
  • Cost: Complimentary tickets are available at the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs or by calling 292-1681.
  • Details: Join us for a movie screening of “Play, Jankunú Play – The Garifuna Wanaragua Ritual of Belize” and several short films from scholar and filmmaker Wills Glasspiegel, who will be present for a question & answer session at the end.

Saturday, October 6, 2018: Bermuda International Gombey Festival Showcase

  • Location: Bermuda Botanical Gardens, Main Show Ring
  • Time: 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM | Doors Open at 4:30 PM
  • Cost: Complimentary
  • Details: Bring a blanket or chair and head to the hillside or bleachers to watch Bermuda’s 6 Gombey troupes display their passion and artistry in the annual Gombey Festival showcase, with special international guests. Refreshments will be available for purchase.
  • Rain Date: Sunday, October 7, 2017

Sunday, October 7, 2018: Gombeys and Traditions of the Diaspora: A Symposium

  • Location: CedarBridge Academy Cafeteria
  • Time: 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM
  • Cost: Complimentary. Please contact Dr. Kim Dismont Robinson, Folklife Officer, on 292-1681 or kdrobinson@gov.bm for more information.
  • Speakers: Dr. Sydney Hutchinson, “Gombeys, Goombay, and Guloyas: A View from the Hispanic Caribbean”; Mr. Wills Glasspiegel, “Montage and Masquerade: Documenting Dance from Sierra Leone to Chicago”; Dr. Quito Swan, “Black Eldorado: Bermuda, Race and Gombey’s Diaspora”; Ms. Veronica Yearwood, “Through the Eyes of the Masquerader: The Intangible Bond of Caribbean Movement, Music and Mas”.

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Comments (3)

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  1. e. gamble says:

    ,”The Gombey is an iconic symbol of Bermuda, reflecting the island’s blend of the African, indigenous peoples, Caribbean and British cultures etc.
    Bermuda has never had “an Indigenous population”, the first peoples arrived here in 1612, please learn Bermuda’s history,
    we are not in the Caribbean.

    • TUT says:

      Clearly you don’t understand that context…Gombey traditions are connected to indigenous people, no one is saying that Bermudians are indigenous people! Stop trying to find fault and appreciate the facts for what they are!

    • We are not in the Caribbean.
      They speak Spanish in Argentina and Portuguese in Brazil and they are in South America.
      And ya point is?