After decades of neglecting the island’s heritage as part of its hospitality product, Bermuda is belatedly — and aggressively — promoting cultural tourism one of the Government Cultural officers told a recent international conference, the bermews.com site reports.
In her presentation entitled “In the Heads of Our People: Tradition-Bearers and Cultural Tourism”, Dr. Kim Dismont Robinson told delegates at the seventh International African Diaspora Heritage Trail conference in Nova Scotia that Bermuda had come to recognise the value of celebrating its cultural identity. She said showcasing the island’s heritage not only served to enhance the island’s tourism product — encouraging vacationers to go “beyond beaches”, as she put it — but also fostered a sense of national identity among Bermudians.
“Well, it just so happens that Bermuda’s tourism industry was first developed as a serious product following World War II, at a time when Bermuda was still a segregated society,” she said. “In contrast, the Department of Cultural Affairs where I now work wasn’t established until the mid-1980s.
“No small wonder, then, that culture and tourism had not historically been a natural marriage in Bermuda: what now seems like an inane debate about whether Bermuda even had a culture was only definitively put to rest in 2001 when we were invited by the Smithsonian to participate in their annual Folklife festival.”
Dr. Dismont Robinson suggested the island had suffered from something of an inferiority complex regarding its culture because the role played by black Bermudians in defining the modern Bermudian identity had traditionally been given short shrift.
“The reason doubt existed is because so much of Bermuda’s culture is born of the creative genius of black Bermudians in a place that historically has not respected the contributions of black Bermudian,” she said. “Our crafting of cedar; our maritime skills; our masonry and architectural genius in the construction of our limestone houses; the infectious rhythm and complicated footwork of the Gombey dance; the cadence of our accent,
“We could not imagine that people from abroad would be interested in who we are because we were not interested in who we are.”
Dr. Dismont Robinson said the island’s history and culture wasn’t taught in schools when her mother was growing up and was seldom celebrated outside the classrooms, either.
“In fact, the pervasive sense that people, commodities, and concepts from ‘away’ are by definition superior to the local version of these things is something that has not entirely died,” she said. “It reflects a kind of national self-esteem problem where even now, when the mind knows better, the heart still feels that tug of inadequacy.” (Follow the link below for a video of actor Danny Glover narrating a documentary on Bermuda’s Africa Diaspora Heritage Trail.)
The Nova Scotia International African Diaspora Heritage Trail Conference was dedicated to cultural tourism initiatives and honouring African culture and heritage throughout the world during 2011, the United Nations International Year for People of African Descent.
The three-day September meeting — which drew delegates from around the world — was focussed on preserving, promoting and protecting sites that are important to the global narrative of people and culture of African descent.
Former Bermuda Tourism Minister the late David Allen first proposed the concept of the African Diaspora Heritage Trail [ADHT] as a unified, cross-border cultural tourism initiative to educate visitors, enhance economic viability of African Diaspora countries and conserve the essence of African descent culture and history.
This initiative was intended, in part, to build long-term relationships between Bermuda, the Caribbean, the African nations and North and South America.
The African Diaspora Heritage Trail was launched as a self-guided tour in Bermuda in 2001, with the Sally Bassett statue in the Cabinet Office grounds [pictured at top] the latest addition to the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organisation-recognised initiative. Bermuda hosted the first International African Diaspora Trail conference in 2002.
Then Tourism Minister Patrice Minors led the Bermuda delegation to this year’s annual conference in Halifax and also addressed the summit. (Follow the link below for Dr. DIsmont Robinson’s complete remarks.)
For the original report go to http://bernews.com/2011/11/99514/