Bermuda often conjures images of turquoise waters, pink sand and vibrant colours. But this island is also a cultural destination. In the capital city of Hamilton, elaborate street art is found around almost every corner, works by some of the biggest names in art are displayed next to local talent, and an emerging fashion scene is making international waves.
Murals: Moongates and Gombeys
As you explore Hamilton you will pass a number of murals reflecting island life. The murals include a bird’s-eye view of Bermuda; a moongate, a traditional circular stone entryway that is a symbol of good fortune; and Gombeys, a folk performance dating back to the 18th century where troupes dressed in colourful clothing and masks take to the streets dancing and drumming.
“I love the colours and movement of our Gombeys,” says Alshanté Foggo, who painted the three Gombey murals on Till’s Hill on Court Street. “The expression from a face, the eyes, the smile, all of that. But I also like the flavour of island people: the rhythm, the culture, and how we dance.”
“A lot of my inspiration comes from our waters, our houses, our people, our unique culture.”Alshanté Foggo
On a cinderblock wall at the Par-La-Ville Car Park on Church Street, artist Tai-Quan Ottley uses a paintbrush to fill in the stencil outline of a child playing against a grey, ochre and pink backdrop.
“This is the largest mural I have done,” says Ottley of the 15-metre-long work. Once complete, the mural will be one of 12 commissioned by the city.
“It’s the first time I’ve used stencils. I wasn’t sure how else I could do the mural because of its size.”
Both Ottley and Foggo say the island can’t help but influence their work.
“Bermudians are warm people,” Foggo says. “I am surrounded by colours, and a lot of my inspiration comes from our waters, our houses, our people, our unique culture.”
At sunset, visit this laneway, located off of Front Street, to see an Instagram-worthy light installation by Tiago Garcia and Nick Harney. The walkway also features a staircase with each step painted in pastel shades and inscribed with inspirational words from local poets.
Set inside the Commissioner’s House at the National Museum of Bermuda in the Royal Naval Dockyard, the Hall of History is a two-storey, 1,000-square-foot mural highlighting Bermuda’s 400-year history. The mural, unveiled in 2009, begins with the 1609 shipwreck of the Sea Venture and journeys through to modern-day Hamilton.
Art Spaces: Living Histories
Set beside a painting of a circa-1950 Bermuda street scene by Canadian artist Dorothy Stevens, a flat-screen monitor plays a video of locals sharing stories and reminiscing. Tom Butterfield, founder and creative director of the Masterworks Foundation, calls these videos “a living history.”
“We had no idea of where the painting depicted because the back streets of north Hamilton had changed so much,” he says. “We put a photograph [of the painting] in the paper and asked if anyone could help identify it.” The people in the video are some of those who came forward.
“In many ways, this is one of our more important paintings because of its relationship to the population,” says Butterfield.
“The idea of the collection was to unify people.”Tom Butterfield
Created in 1987, the foundation—housed in the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art at the Bermuda Botanical Gardens—collects influential art inspired by, or with a connection to, the island. The collection includes works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Winslow Homer and Albert Gleizes.
“The idea of the collection was to unify people,” Butterfield says. While only a portion of the collection is displayed at any one time, people can visit the archives to view the other works.
“A young boy said, ‘I live in one of those houses,’” Butterfield says, pointing to a painting of a Hamilton neighbourhood. “To hear that sense of pride and belonging, that sense of this is my land, my home—I couldn’t ask for a better statement than a child responding to the art.”
Walking into this hotel on Hamilton Harbour is like entering an art gallery. The hotel is owned by Bermuda’s Green family, who are contemporary and pop art collectors. Works in the public areas of the hotel are rotated but include pieces by Andy Warhol, Banksy, Damien Hirst and David Hockney.
Located in Hamilton’s City Hall & Arts Centre, a stunning white building with a soaring 27-metre tower, this gallery features permanent and visiting exhibits. It’s also home to the 2020 Bermuda Biennial, which showcases contemporary works by island artists every two years.
Spend some time on the island and you’ll quickly discover there’s more to Bermudan fashion than the brightly coloured eponymous shorts and knee-high socks. The island is home to a growing design community.
“You can’t really describe Bermudian fashion,” says designer Rochelle Nicole Minors. “It’s a mix of Bermudan, British and American [influences]. That is our culture.”
A former Miss Bermuda, Minors studied in London and has shown her collection at London’s Graduate Fashion Week and New York Fashion Week. Her past creations were inspired by the shapes in Bermudan architecture and the island’s distinct colour palette.
“Fashion has been ingrained in our culture,” she says. “A lot of women don’t shop here because they don’t want someone wearing the same thing as they are. They come to me to get something that no one else has.”
Nicole Golden, the owner of Urban Cottage, a boutique on Front Street that sells works by local artisans and designers, says Bermuda’s women have a long tradition of making their own clothes.
“Fashion is huge in the community, people will plan their outfits,” says Golden, adding it might be for a night out, going to the beach or watching a game of cricket.
Channing Dill, an emerging designer whose label NATIVE by ChanningElizabeth sells handmade resort-wear—bikinis, bags and stylish cover-ups—calls this extra effort and attention to detail, “Doing the most.”
June 12 to 15, 2020
Previously, apprentice and established designers have paired up to create feathery and sparkly costumes for masqueraders to wear through the streets of Hamilton during this annual event. Next year’s event will include costumes by local designer, Kassie Bather.
July 30 to 31, 2020
As players from the rival clubs of St. George’s and Somerset take to the pitch for this annual, two-day cricket match, the island’s fashion mavens and mavericks line the stands in their best, and brightest, designs.
[This story appears in the December 2019 edition of WestJet Magazine.]