The impetus for this exhibition was the desire to reintroduce the public to two significant paintings by Robert Bassett (Bermudian, b.1951), which were previously on display in Bermuda’s L. F. Wade International Airport for many years. Both paintings prominently feature dancing Gombeys, but the strong presence of the peripheral figures suggests that the intended emphasis of the artwork goes beyond the immediate spectacle of the dancers.
The paintings convey the existence of an engaged community, whose reaction centres on the Gombeys; sometimes, they seem to match the energy of the dance troupe, and at other times, they appear mesmerised. What remains consistent is the sense of togetherness. The exploration of the artworks’ portrayal of cultural citizenship leads to broader considerations of relationships. In this context, the large Bassett paintings serve as an anchor, and the central theme throughout the exhibition is that of ‘belonging’.
This is depicted in various ways, large and small, representationally and implicitly, and in two-dimensional and sculptural art forms. The exhibition brings together works by artists of Bermudian heritage, drawn from both the Bermuda National Gallery’s permanent collection and community loans, which collectively tell a story of connectedness. Whether the prompting comes from diasporic interest, Bermudian cultural pride, or an appreciation of human expression, there is a sense of belonging.
Exhibition curated by Dr Edwin M.E. Smith. With support from Bermuda Arts Council. A Sense of Belonging: Connection and Community in Bermuda Art is on display in the Humann, Young and Upper Mezzanine Galleries through to March 2024.