Story and pictures by Andrew Mulenga
|Getting it started|
A barrage of music assaults our ears from every direction. African, Caribbean, Latin American, and Indian: it is the United Nations of rhythm. There is also a kaleidoscope of gyrating bodies performing all kinds of dance as the moon shines bright over Table Mountain.
This is carnival – Cape Town style. I may be jet lagged and wanting to get some rest. However, the burst of rolling samba drums captured my attention and I just had to abandon my hotel room and take to the streets.
The streets however, were so packed there was not a place to stand. I therefore had to excavate myself through the crowd in order to find a camera spot, but in vain. Almost suddenly, I understood what that 90’s MC and one hit wonder Skee-Lo meant when he rapped “I wish I was a little bit taller”, because at this point so did I, if I was a little taller I could take pictures above the heads of the crowds. Fortunately, I found a space right next to a so-called “Cape coloured” family that clearly constituted a four-generation line-up from grandmother to grandchildren. They had carried food and warm clothing visibly here to enjoy the night until late.
|A dancer in an aloe vera outfit|
Nevertheless, wave after wave of multi-coloured floats representing the diversity of South African, Vis a vis Cape Town culture exploded onto Somerset Road transforming it into a dazzling passageway of colour and dance that fascinated a local and international horde of approximately 100,000 people.
After having a fair share of the festivities I decide to stop for the day and get some even though the fun was just starting at 22:00hrs in the form a free concert at Cape Town stadium.
Walking back to the hotel, memories from home gush through my mind with a slideshow of images from Zambia’s celebration of the recent triumph at the Africa Cup of Nations. I remember how, as the four generation coloured family, Zambian families kept vigil along the airport road albeit the whole day on empty stomachs just to get a glimpse of their heroes and the trophy.
I remember in Zambia how the crowds were almost uncontrollable to the extent of allegedly getting the Police IG fired, probably because we are a nation starved of a carnival atmosphere.
|...more aloe vera|
Nevertheless, back to the Cape Town Carnival, which is only in its third year. As much as it is a crowd-puller. There were a few in the crowd who had no kind words for it.
“This is not the original carnival, it is not for the people... people had to leave the township and jump on taxis (mini buses) which will stop at 20:00hrs when the fun is just beginning” said a photographer friend of mine before the start of the whole event “The real carnival is held in January, not this one, this is just commercial, it’s not for the people”.
My good friend was referring to the Cape Minstrels Carnival, the oldest event of this kind in South Africa that is over 100 years old and traces its roots back to old slave traditions of the Cape Colony. It is historically celebrated on January 2, the one-day Cape slaves were given off every year, and it is therefore essentially a celebration of freedom.
|Indian dance: the festivities are multi-cultural|