Gombey festival honours Caisey

  • Shawn Caisey of H&H Gombey Troupe was honoured at the Bermuda International Gombey Festival Showcase (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    Shawn Caisey of H&H Gombey Troupe was honoured at the Bermuda International Gombey Festival Showcase (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Gombeys “stand for everybody in Bermuda”, a veteran performer proclaimed at a weekend event dedicated to the art form.

Shawn Caisey added: “We stand for every ancestor.”

Mr Caisey said that the Gombeys are about “honour at its highest”.

He added: “It goes back to slavery, our ancestors.

“If you are deep into your black culture, you’ll get the gist of what I’m saying.

“Respect and honour at its highest. That’s the best way I can put it.”

The 46-year-old was honoured at the Bermuda International Gombey Festival Showcase on Saturday at Botanical Gardens.

Mr Caisey said that his love for Gombeys grew out of his upbringing in the Government Gate area of Pembroke, where he lived just three doors down from the home base for Place’s Gombeys.

He added: “It was right there in front of me — it was always there.”

Mr Caisey, a member of H&H Gombeys for nearly 30 years, said it was the history behind the art form that had sustained his interest.

“What started me was just being curious as a kid,” he said.

“When I became an early teenager, my peers were asking me questions I couldn’t answer.

“It sort of messed me up because I wanted to answer, but I couldn’t ... I didn’t know.”

Ed Christopher, the event emcee, described Mr Caisey as a “keen researcher on the history and origins of Gombey culture”.

He added: “He would often be seen at the Bermuda National Library studying up about the Gombeys and other masquerade cultures in the Caribbean and Africa.”

Mr Christopher said that Mr Caisey was recognised as an elder in Bermuda’s Gombey community and called him an “expert costume designer, drum-maker, and of course, dancer”.

He added: “Throughout his career, he has performed in front of royalty, and represented Bermuda in the Caribbean, North America and Europe.”

Wayne Raynor, one of the captains of H&H Gombeys, said that Mr Caines was one of the key figures in Bermuda’s Gombey community.

He added: “If you want to know anything about Gombeys, old or new, he can direct you to the right people or he can tell you if he knows.

“He’s like a Gombey encyclopaedia.”

Zane Hendrickson, another captain of H&H, said that it meant a lot to have Mr Caisey recognised.

He added: “He taught us everything that we know now. Not even just about Gombeys — about life, period.”

Lovitta Foggo, the Minister of Labour, Community Affairs and Sport, told the audience that the Gombey had become an “iconic symbol of Bermudian culture”.

She added: “Tonight we are honouring our folk art, our history and our connections to the African diaspora.”

Five troupes took part in the festival showcase: Gombey Evolution, Gombey Warriors, H&H Gombeys, Place’s New Generation Gombeys and Warwick Gombeys.

Ms Foggo thanked the groups for taking part in the event “and more, importantly, for being the strong tradition bearers”.

She added: “We all love the Gombeys and we are all here to celebrate with you for our traditional art.”

Mr Caisey said that while he didn’t devote his time for accolades, the recognition at the event was appreciated.

He added: “It’s nice to know, to feel, to see, that people appreciate what you have been doing over the years.”

Mr Caisey, whose 18-year-old son, Chekai, dances with H&H, said that his family’s connection to the Gombeys was generational.

“I have a newborn ten months old,” he said. “He loves it.”

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Published Oct 14, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Oct 13, 2019 at 11:48 pm)

Gombey festival honours Caisey

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