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Gombey book aims to boost early literacy

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Gombey — The Way of the Warrior!, by David Chapman (Image supplied)

An educational children’s book charting the history of Gombeys was penned to teach young people about the "rich, cultural heritage“ that the tradition represents.

Author David Chapman hoped that Gombey — The Way of the Warrior! will directly impact early literacy while celebrating and preserving a core aspect of the island’s unique history.

Thanks to a grant from the Bermuda Arts Council that helped to facilitate the book’s production, as well as corporate sponsorship from Bermuda Healthcare Services and the Brown-Darrell Clinic, the publication will be made available for free across all public and private Year 5 classes during Heritage Month in May.

David Chapman (Photograph supplied)

Dr Chapman, who is known for his five-part series, Daddy and I Explore …, and who is the son of the late former Progressive Labour Party senator Laverne Furbert, told The Royal Gazette: “This book will be a hugely important work that will benefit our local Bermudians, particularly those who are of African descent, especially the younger generations and those to come in the future.

“The book was written with its core aim to help educate our youth on the rich, cultural heritage that the Gombey represents, one that is particularly under threat today from culturally erosive commercialisation and tokenism.

“A key aspect featured in this book is to highlight and make clear the direct thread of connectivity of the Bermuda Gombey from its ancestral roots to the diverse masquerade traditions of West Africa.”

Dr Chapman said the book also makes clear that the Gombey is not a tradition unique to Bermuda but rather an Afro-Caribbean tradition spread across the Caribbean diaspora, sharing a connection to the original masquerade traditions once carried over in the memories of enslaved Africans.

He said: “In a recent dialogue with Professor Raphael Njoku, one of academia’s most respected authorities on Africa’s masquerade traditions, specifically in regard to its diffusion and evolution into the African diaspora as a result of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, he reminds us ‘remember that masquerade cultures in Africa are extensive, stretching from south-eastern Nigeria to Central Africa and from its ancient land of origins across the Western African littoral through Ivory Coast to Guinea and Mali’.”

Dr Chapman said similarities were noted with specific genres of Igbo traditions “such as Ijele and Ojionu, Efik/Cross River masks like Ekpe, Yako, and Yoruba masks such as Egungu [without the tall headdress] and gboya among the Nupe — all in Nigeria”.

He highlighted that Professor Njoku said there were also similarities with “the Bobo mask in Burkina Faso, the Kurosi secret masquerade among the Bamenda in Cameroon”.

The book features the Gombey Evolution troupe, which is continuing the legacy of the renowned Gombey stalwart, the late Allan Warner.

It also honours Ras Mykkal, who is chief photographer for the book, and features Gary Phillips, one of Bermuda’s most passionate advocates of the Bermuda Gombey, who wrote the foreword.

The book donation is expected to reach more than 400 children.

Dr Chapman said the gift will “act as another significant catalyst in our efforts to promote early literacy, environmental and cultural appreciation, and healthy families”.

The book is also available for purchase at Brown & Co and People’s Pharmacy.

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Published May 02, 2024 at 8:01 am (Updated May 02, 2024 at 8:01 am)

Gombey book aims to boost early literacy

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