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Gumba Trail

Duration: Half Day

Gumba Trail

The beautiful Caribbean island of Bermuda is renowned for its colourful culture and traditions, much of which revolves and music and dancing. This fascinating tour will lead you on a historic journey along the Gumba Trail, where you can hear the story behind the Caribbean Junkanoo dancers and their link to Bermuda’s Goombey dancers through exhibits and ancient artifacts.

Music and dancing is a big part of Bermuda’s culture, and the famous Gombey dance is the island's premier folk art and an iconic symbol. Gombeys are the original native people of Bermuda, brought to the island as slaves or convicts from West Africa, the Caribbean and North America during colonial times. The name “Gombey” is derived from an African word meaning rhythm, and the dance itself comes from a fusion of different cultures, including West African, Caribbean and American Indian. The dances each have names, and the musical accompaniment is typically two snare drums, a kettle drum and a fife. The techniques have been passed from generation to generation since the 17th century, when slaves celebrated their brief taste of freedom on Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve with energetic festivities and dances. Today, however, the dance is performed primarily during Christmas and Easter Holidays.

Another similar cultural tradition in Bermuda involves the Caribbean Junkanoo dancers, whose roots can also be traced to West Africa around the 16th or 17th centuries. They too celebrated their freedom from slavery on days off during the Christmas period with music, dancing and costumes. The origin of the word "Junkanoo" is unknown but it is believed to have derived from "John Canoe", an African tribal chief who fought for the right to celebrate African traditions with his people after he was brought to the West Indies as a slave. When slavery was abolished, Junkanoo almost disappeared, but a few islanders on Bermuda and other Caribbean islands such as Belize and Jamaica kept the tradition going. Junkanoo is most famously celebrated in the Bahamas, however, where the annual Junkanoo Festival is regarded as one of the most intense and spiritual carnivals in the world. This hour-long tour of the Gumba Trail and Outdoor Museum is led by a knowledgeable local guide – known as the Gumba – who will teach you about the connection between these two similar tribes, who both marked their freedom from slavery through joyous celebrations.

Both the Gombey and Junkanoo dancers use masks in their ceremonies, along with weird and wonderful, brightly-coloured masquerade costumes that are elaborately decorated. Ornate Gombey masks are the key exhibition at the Gumba Trail and Outdoor Museum, located at the Royal Naval Dockyard, whilst other exhibits include everyday items used during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Your guide will recount many interesting stories about the Gombeys along the trail, whilst revealing the secret meanings and symbols of the Gombey costume. You will also learn about the island's endemic plant life and their medicinal uses during the tour. This information will give you a fascinating insight into tribal life in Bermuda between the 16th and 18th centuries, which has fortunately remained uninfluenced by British culture.

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