Here Come the Gombeys

Robert Bassett

Bermudian (b. 1951)

Acrylic on canvas

1999

Kindly loaned by the Government of Bermuda

Bermudian artist Robert Bassett captures the energy and community of Bermuda’s Gombey tradition, a blend of African,
Native American, and Caribbean cultures which evolved during
slavery in Bermuda. As Sankofa Bermuda explains: “Similar to
Afro-Caribbean dances that evolved in the Bahamas and St. Kitts,
Gombey was developed several centuries ago by Bermuda’s slave
population to give artistic expression to the indignities they
suffered at the hands of their owners.”
“Historically, Gombey was disparaged by the island’s ruling
class, who viewed the high-energy performances as a threat to
the social order. As a consequence, Gombey troupes—members
which donned masks and full-coverage costumes to conceal
their identities—were strictly controlled, allowed to dance only
once a year or banned completely.”
Gombeys would traditionally dance on Boxing Day and New
Years Day (a tradition which continues) as those were the only
days off for the enslaved.

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