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Three Sides to Every Story: Bermudians Share Their Paradise

Bermudian cultural influencers offer up their own version of this beloved island paradise.

From the centuries-old cobblestone streets of St. George’s in the East to the historic Royal Navy Dockyard in the West and the urban sophistication of the island center, the lush little oasis that is Bermuda has (at least) three sides and three stories to tell.

Kristin White

East End

Bookstore owner, community activist, tourism consultant, public speaker, writer

“I have a passion for St. George’s, and I love to show others the wonderment in our winding cobbled alleys and historic tales,” said Kristin White, who was recently named one of Bermuda’s most fascinating people by the Trades Women of Bermuda.

The island’s former capital and a Unesco World Heritage site, St. George’s combines old and new: quaint streets with names like Old Maid’s Lane, Colonial buildings dating back to the 17th century, and bustling modern cafes and boutiques bursting with local wares. White combines her love of Bermudian history with her love of food on her East End Eats Bicycle Tour, taking visitors to local edible gardens and to restaurants and bars where the community hangs out, and working in nuggets of culture as she goes. Said White, “Everything here has a connection to the past.”

Tom Butterfield

Central Bermuda

Founder and Creative Director, Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art 

“There’s a cultural renaissance in Bermuda that I find exciting,” said Tom Butterfield, who opened Masterworks in 1987. Set on the grounds of the eye-popping Botanical Gardens, the museum showcases Bermuda-inspired art from 19th-century masters such as Winslow Homer, Georgia O’Keeffe and E. Ambrose Webster.

The ethereal light, stunning landscapes and warm, welcoming locals have inspired artists, authors and musicians for centuries. Art begets art, and Masterworks has become a hotbed of artistic energy dedicated to the best of Bermuda’s thriving art community. Then, as now, Bermuda is easy to get to, but a world away. “It’s a subtropical paradise free of clutter and billboards,” Butterfield said. “It’s the perfect place to find both solace and inspiration.” 

Elena Strong

West End

Executive Director at National Museum of Bermuda

Elena Strong likes to say there are 45,000 ways to be Bermudian. “We have a strong immigrant history, which has given us a very diverse culture,” said Strong, who has English parents and a Portuguese Bermudian/Swiss German stepfather.

Strong is the new director of the National Museum of Bermuda, which chronicles 500 years of Bermuda’s history. Set in The Keep fortress at the Royal Naval Dockyard, the largest and best preserved of all Bermuda’s fortifications, the museum is home to cannons, shipwreck artefacts, artwork and a dramatic mural by local artist Graham Foster.

The grand Commissioner’s House was the first cast-iron residence in the world. “I love walking through the Dockyard, looking at these impressive buildings,” Strong said. And although the West End of Bermuda was once home to smugglers, mariners and pilots, it now draws divers and snorkellers for its many shipwrecks spanning four centuries. A diver herself, Strong enjoys exploring the surrounding coral reef and the occasional shipwreck. Said Strong: “The West End is the perfect place for a history and culture buff."

Bermudians in New York

Damon DeGraff

Founder dGi Management, a New York–based artist management company

Hailing from the close-knit community of Devonshire, Damon DeGraff was born into a musical family: his grandmother was considered the best piano teacher on the island. DeGraff grew up around all kinds of music, particularly the sound and feel of reggae. “Music was easily accessible, and when it’s easily accessible, it becomes a part of you,” said DeGraff, whose company represents in-demand musicians and D.J.s.

Although he’s been living in New York for 20 years, the Bermuda vibe never disappears. “I carry Bermuda with me in my head and in my heart,” he said. “That fun, warm, loving culture influences everything I do.” Bermuda has also influenced his look, which stands in stark contrast to his fellow black-clad New Yorkers. “I’m Mr. Color  – in the winter I’m always wearing something bright,” he said. “Like the houses in Bermuda that are a vibrant pink, yellow, blue. We Bermudians live with that influence and make it our own, as artists and as people.”

Shiona Turini

Editor, stylist, creative consultant

“You can take a girl off the island, but you’ll never take the island out of the girl,” said New York-based fashion maven Shiona Turini, who grew up in Devil’s Hole on Bermuda’s East End. “Devil’s Hole is packed with free-spirited characters who march to the beat of their own drum,” she said. “That definitely influenced me.”

Turini’s identifiable Bermudian style is showcased by her love of vivid colors, her massive swimsuit collection and her gold bangles. “I inherited the bangles from my mother, and I never take them off,” she said. “Anyone else from the Caribbean can spot them a mile away – they’re almost a cultural symbol.” And then there’s Turini’s passion for crop tops, no matter the weather, often combined with an easy, wide-legged pant. “A lot of what I wear feels well-suited for an island breeze,” she said. “Just like home.”

Turini’s Bermudian style is showcased by her love of vivid colors, her massive swimsuit collection and her gold bangles.

As seen in NY Times Magazine.