2013 Bermuda’s Folklife Part I

Arts of Celebration: Gombeys

Date: 18th July 2013
Cachet: BERMUDA’S FOLKLIFE PART I ARTS OF CELEBRATION: GOMBEYS / BERMUDA Official First Day Cover Release Date: 18 July 2013
Stamps; BERMUDA GOMBEYS 35c Gombey costume; $1.25 Gombey mask; $1.50 Gombey snare and bass drum and $1.65 Gombey cape detail.

2013 Bermuda's Folklife Part I Gombeys FDC

Address: Postmaster General Bermuda

2013 Bermuda's Folklife Part I Gombeys insert rev FDC



July 2013

Folklife is the living traditions currently practised and passed along by word of mouth, imitation, or observation over time and space within groups, such as family, ethnic, social class, regional, and others. Everyone and every group has folklife. This is the first in a series of stamp issues that will highlight the various genres of Bermuda’s folklife.

The Bermuda gombey is perhaps the island’s most recognisable and vibrant cultural tradition. Masked dancers parade through the streets of Bermuda on holidays especially on Bermuda Day, Christmas and New Year’s Day. The troupes of gombeys are accompanied by a band of musicians usually playing a bass drum, a military-style fife, two snare drums, a triangle, and a bottle.

The word “gombey” means “rustic drum” in the Bantu language, and the tradition is a unique blend of African, West Indian (specifically St. Kitts), Amerindian, and British influences. Gombeys have existed in Bermuda since the 1800s and the practice was developed by the island’s bondspeople of African and Amerindian descent. Most gombey troupes are formed from a close-knit group of men and boys who are usually relatives.

Each member of a gombey troupe has a specific role to play. The Captain or leader uses a whip to keep back the crowd, and directs his troupe using a whistle -likely adopted from the British military band tradition. The dancers follow cues from the captain and the musicians. The Wild Indian, with his bow an arrow, travels ahead of the rest of the troupe to find houses where the gombeys can perform. The Trapper has a rope and tries to capture the Wild Indian. The Chiefs, with their tomahawks and shields, follow the Trapper. The Warriors carry small hatchets and follow the Chiefs.

Each of these stamps captures an image representing an aspect of Bermuda’s iconic gombey dancers.

The 35c stamp shows the colourful fringed costume and traditional high-top white sneakers of the gombey in the midst of an intricate dance.

The $1.25 stamp is an image of a gombey mask and headdress. The mask is constructed from painted wire mesh, and the headdress is adorned with tall peacock feathers and glitter.

The $1.50 stamp features a snare and a bass drum. The bass drum, called the “mother” drum, is traditionally made with nanny goat skin on one side and Billy goat skin on the opposite side. The snare drum is struck on both the skin and the rim to give a distinctive sound and set of rhythms to the music.

The $1.65 stamp is a detail of a cape. The richly designed capes feature mirrors, sequins, yarn fringe, beads, and ribbons hand-stitched onto a dark velvet background. One of the island’s best-known costume designers, Mrs. Janice Warner, has been recognised by the Bermuda Government for her contributions.

The costumes consist of a white sweatshirt, white sneakers, and white gloves; pants fringed with multicoloured thread; a scarf wrapped around the neck; a highly decorated cape and skirt (also called an apron); and the mask and headdress with yarn braids attached. The gombey dances are fast-paced, intricate, and often tell a narrative, including Biblical stories such as David and Goliath, or Samson and Delilah. It is traditional for crowds to throw money at the dancers’ feet.


DESIGNER: Jackie Aubrey, Department of Communication and Information
PROCESS: Lithography
STAMP SIZE: 28.45 mm x 42.58mm
PERFORATION: 13.33 Per 2cms
PANE: 50 (2 x 25)
PAPER: CASCO Crown Watermarked
VALUES: 35c, $1.25, $1.50, $1.65
RELEASE DATE: 18 July 2013
Photographs by Department of Communication and Information. Liner notes courtesy of Dr Kim Dismont Robinson, Folklife Officer, Department of Community and Cultural Affairs.

2013 Bermuda's Folklife Part I Gombeys insert FDC

Thanks to Mira for picking these up for me at Perot Post Office, Bermuda

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