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Gombeys and guests take centre stage

  • Bermuda Gombey Festival Showcase: Gombey Warriors (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Gombey Festival showcase filled the main show ring at the Botanical Gardens with drumming, whistling and whirling regalia as troupes and international guests performed for an audience of hundreds.

For a gallery of pictures from the night, click here.

Gombeys were among the spectators, and children in Gombey costumes played on the hillside as onlookers lined Berry Hill Road.

“Let the rhythm begin,” Lovitta Foggo, the Acting Minister of Social Development and Sport, told the crowd to open the event.

Ed Christopher, the MC for the showcase, introduced Gombey Evolution, Wilson’s New Generation Gombeys, Gombey Warriors, H & H Gombeys, Place’s New Generation Gombeys and the Warwick Gombeys, as well as the Bermuda Donquili African dance and drum group.

The crowd welcomed international guests Zayd Saleem, a Moko Jumbie stilt walker from the US Virgin Islands, and the Hermitage Shortknee Dancers, visiting from Grenada.

Leon “Sparky” Place, this year’s honouree, was applauded as “an undisputed master of the Gombey arts who has no immediate plans to hang up his costume”.

Mr Christopher added that Mr Place still continues to perform with his “beloved” Place’s Gombey Troupe on special occasions.

Mr Place was nicknamed “the praying Gombey”, he said, and has left “an indelible stamp on Bermuda’s Gombey culture” over more than 60 years as a performer, mentor and captain.

Mr Place brought a disciplined ethos to his troupe, the crowd heard.

“I believed that children had to be of good deportment at home and at school — and if they were not, they could not dance,” Mr Place was quoted as saying.

Mr Place thanked the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs for supporting the show, which grew last year from a one-day event to a weekend of commemorations.

Under a clear, still evening, Mr Christopher called for a moment of silence for “those who came before us and who led the way”, listing off the names of leading Gombey figures.

As the performances got under way, he said: “See how proud Bermuda Gombeys are?

“They carry on their heads peacock feathers — you can’t get prouder than a peacock.”