Video: Gombey Festival Press Conference

October 5, 2018 | 3 Comments

[Updated] The Bermuda International Gombey Festival was highlighted at a press conference this afternoon, with Minister Lovitta Foggo joined by local Gombeys and overseas guests as she provided an overview of the four-day event, which is currently underway.

“The Gombey Festival is held annually to provide continued exposure to the folk art traditions of this important cultural heritage,” the Government previously said.

“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.”

“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.

The 9-minute live video replay is below:

“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.

“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 Bermuda International Gombey Festival Showcase will be held on Saturday [Oct 6] at the Main Ring at the Botanical Gardens from 5.00pm to 9.00pm, with people invited to “watch Bermuda’s six Gombey troupes display their passion and artistry in the annual Gombey Festival showcase, with special international guests.”

Bermuda International Gombey Festival press conference Oct 5 2018 (1)

Update 4.41pm: Acting Minister of Social Development and Sports Lovitta Foggo said, “Good afternoon everyone!

“With the Bermuda International Gombey Festival Weekend 2018 well underway, I am so excited to be here today to continue celebrating the tradition, folklore, and heritage of the Bermuda Gombey dance.

“The Gombey Festival is held annually to celebrate Bermuda’s folk dancers who demonstrate – through their intricate dance steps, infectious music, and vibrant regalia – a tradition that has been passed down through the ages from generations of master Gombey dancers.

“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.

Bermuda International Gombey Festival press conference Oct 5 2018 (2)

“We want to give a warm welcome to our international guests – the African drum and dance experts visiting us in conjunction with Bermuda Donqiuili, the colourful Hermitage Shortknee dancers from Grenada, and Mr. Zayd Saleem, a Moko Jumbie [stilt walker] of the US Virgin Islands. I am eagerly looking forward to watching all of your performances at the Showcase on Saturday.

“Each year the Gombey Festival just gets bigger and better!

“Last year we expanded from just a one-day event to an entire weekend of events…and we have continued with that format this year with an astounding lineup of events.

“This evening, for example, we have the Gombey Festival Film Showcase which takes place at Speciality Cinema at 6pm. There will be a movie screening of, “Play, Jankunú Play” which shows folklore dancing in Belize similar to our Bermuda Gombey dancing. There will also be several short films from scholar and filmmaker Wills Glasspiegel, who will be present for a question & answer session at the end.

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“Then on Saturday, our spectacular Bermuda International Gombey Festival Showcase takes place in the Bermuda Botanical Gardens, Main Show Ring from 5pm until 9pm. Bring a blanket or chair and head to the hillside or bleachers to watch Bermuda’s six Gombey troupes display their passion and artistry, with our special international guests. Refreshments will be available for purchase. 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.

“Then on Sunday, October 7 “Gombeys and Traditions of the Diaspora: A Symposium” takes place at CedarBridge Academy Cafeteria from 2pm until 4pm. The speakers and their topics will be:

  • 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”;
  • Bermudian, Dr. Quito Swan, “Black Eldorado: Bermuda, Race and Gombey’s Diaspora”;
  • and Ms. Veronica Yearwood, “Through the Eyes of the Masquerader: The Intangible Bond of Caribbean Movement, Music and Mas”.

“I would like to congratulate the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs for the partnerships they have nurtured in 2018 with other cultural and creative organisations to see the Bermuda International Gombey Festival weekend into fruition. They teamed up with Bermuda Donquili to bring in three African dance and drum experts to participate in the festival and to work directly with the Bermuda Donquili African dance and drum group. Additionally, The Department of Community and Cultural Affairs together with the Parks Department have collaborated with Chewstick Foundation to create a community art project “Gombeys in the Garden”. The entire community is invited to participate in this art project featuring a Gombey mural on the Jack King Building.

Gombey Festival press conference  Bermuda Oct 5 2018 (1)

“And, finally…during each festival, we pause to pay homage to and salute an individual who has cultivated and strengthened the traditions of the Bermuda Gombey.

“As such I would like to publically recognize this year’s honoree – Mr. Leon “Sparky” Place, an exceptional former drummer and dancer with Places.

“Mr. Place has more than 60 years under his belt as a Gombey student, practitioner, mentor, and artist.

“He was recruited into Places Gombey troupe at the tender age of ten, along with his brothers Dennis and Reginald Jr.

“He had little choice in the matter – his father, known as “Scranny”, was the group’s founder/captain and gombey was a family affair.

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“In the late 1970s he succeeded his brother Dennis as captain of the troupe. For Leon, the role was an opportunity to instill discipline in the young members.

“Mr. Leon “Sparky” Place proved to be an exceptionally creative dancer – contributing more than 10 original steps to the repertoire. But perhaps his most enduring contribution to the art is as a master costume designer when he started using wool in the fringes of the costume, an innovation credited to enhancing the dynamism of the dancer’s movement.

“Bermuda’s International Gombey Festival weekend provides an array of interesting, exciting, interactive and informative opportunities for all. There is the film night later this evening; the community art project taking place on Saturday; the Gombey Festival Showcase beginning at 5pm tomorrow evening during which our guest performers as well as our beloved Gombey dancers will thrill us; and the symposium on Sunday when our participants will inform and stimulate thought.

“To our listening audience, I invite you to be part of the fun; and join with us as we celebrate aspects of our cultural heritage and give recognition to those who continue to keep our Gombey traditions alive and vibrant.”

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Comments (3)

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  1. That was very skilful balancing on those stilts.

    • 2 Bermudas says:

      Maybe they can march to Gombey House, collect $1.2m and get some titty milk to stay hydrated!! Ha ha ha!!

  2. Southampton says:

    What is the connection between Bermuda and Gombey.

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