City in­vokes Rio spirit for first Car­ni­val

Money woes won’t be a party pooper as Cape Town gets ready to samba, writes

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

SOME­WHERE in Rio de Janeiro, women with im­mac­u­late tans and shapely fig­ures are putting the fin­ish­ing touches to their out­fits. Feathers, se­quins, shiny rhine­stones – the bolder the bet­ter.

Nearby, there are prob­a­bly men prac­tis­ing fes­ti­val songs on their brass in­stru­ments and drums, and work­ers con­struct­ing gi­gan­tic floats.

The streets of Rio are alive right now, and there’s no won­der­ing why: the Rio Car­ni­val, one of the world’s big­gest par­ties, is just two weeks away.

Each year, the event at­tracts masses of peo­ple from around the world. There’s live mu­sic, danc­ing, parad­ing and all sorts of ca­vort­ing.

But for those of us who have never had the op­por­tu­nity to join in the leg­endary Brazil­ian rev­elry, the Car­ni­val may be closer than you think.

Cape Town now has its very own fes­ti­val – the Cape Town Car­ni­val. The event, be­ing staged for the first time this year, was in­spired by the Rio Car­ni­val; how­ever, or­gan­is­ers are cer­tain that the Mother City’s event will have a unique, true-to-it­s­roots flavour.

Al­though last-minute as­pects are still be­ing fi­nalised, the car­ni­val starts on March 18, stretch­ing over three days.

It opens with a fash­ion show fea­tur­ing gar­ments from 12 lo­cal de­sign­ers. Some of the cre­ations will be auc­tioned, rais­ing money for next year’s car­ni­val.

The fol­low­ing day, Fri­day, is when the real party starts. A street party is planned for Long Street, and or­gan­is­ers are ral­ly­ing to get the sup­port and par­tic­i­pa­tion of lo­cal shops, pubs and night­clubs.

If the street party does not get the bet­ter of car­ni­val go­ers, they can also catch the event’s high­light – the pa­rade. It in­volves a blend of 2 500 peo­ple, all dressed in their bright­est garb, a gi­ant float, 4m x 2m pup­pets and a mix of fes­ti­val songs com­posed spe­cially for the car­ni­val.

How­ever, the plan­ning of the Cape Town Car­ni­val has not been without its glitches. The spon­sors, which in­clude the City of Cape Town and cor­po­rate fi­nanciers, have cut back on their fund­ing, mean­ing the planned bud­get for the car­ni­val has been slashed con­sid­er­ably.

While Cape Town Car­ni­val CEO Is­abel Meyer would not dis­close the amount at the event’s launch this week, she ac­knowl­edged the eco­nomic cli­mate had had an im­pact. This meant down­scal­ing of the orig­i­nal plans.

They have re­duced the num­ber of floats from about 25 to one big one, and about 100 fewer peo­ple will now take part in the pa­rade.

Di­rec­tor and pro­ducer Richard Lor­ing, of African Foot­print fame, has also with­drawn from the event as its creative di­rec­tor.

“Peo­ple looked at their fi­nan­cial re­sults and it was im­pos­si­ble to keep the bud­get as it was,” said Meyer. “But we’re mak­ing the most creative things we can out of the bud­get we have and it’s looking fan­tas­tic so far. This is truly some­thing pos­i­tive for

‘To cap­ture Cape Town’s cul­ture, the car­ni­val has five “chap­ters” within its main Rhythm, Roots and Boots theme’

Cape Town.”

Many creative minds con­trib­uted to­wards the car­ni­val’s themes and ideas, in­clud­ing in­put from mem­bers of the Cape Town com­mu­nity. The Cape Town Car­ni­val, in essence, was the mak­ing of every­one from the coun­try’s big-time mu­sic com­posers, such as Gabi le Roux and Clive Ridg­way, to the Ad­der­ley Street flower sell­ers, the Cape min­strels and the Kalk Bay fish­er­men.

“The main idea we took from the Rio Car­ni­val was how it united peo­ple; that was our start­ing point,” she said. “But we wanted a truly Capeto­nian car­ni­val. We don’t want to be Rio be­cause we’re not – our cul­tures are dif­fer­ent.”

To cap­ture Cape Town’s cul­ture, the car­ni­val has five “chap­ters” within its main Rhythm, Roots and Boots theme. Each chap­ter is rep­re­sented dif­fer­ently in the pa­rade – dif­fer­ent cos­tumes and move­ments.

They drew in­spi­ra­tion from the chap­ters – Puz­zle Pieces, which por­trays Cape Town’s di­verse range of cul­tures; The Streets of Cape Town, high­light­ing the his­tory and vi­brancy of the city cen­tre; Post­cards from Cape Town, which shows off the city’s great­est as­sets; Chil­dren of the Winds of Change, rep­re­sent­ing Cape Town’s harsh winds and the com­ing of democ­racy; and The Sea, which fo­cuses on the beaches, fish­ing cul­ture and marine life.

“We re­ally wanted to cap­ture each chap­ter,” says Petersen. “For sea, we used all kinds of colours – co­rals, greens. And we used long flow­ing gar­ments.”

They were even more creative with Streets of Cape Town and Puz­zle Pieces. The cos­tume racks have ev­ery­thing from Lobola cow out­fits to flower seller aprons and the skimpy dresses and shorts worn by “ladies of the night”, as wardrobe co-or­di­na­tor Petersen puts it.

The wardrobe is com­ple­mented by six songs, which Le Roux and Ridg­way com­posed for the car­ni­val.

Ridg­way be­lieved Cape Town was very di­verse, and as in­te­grated as it should be. “We’ve got­ten peo­ple from all back­grounds in­volved in the project. And the fin­ished prod­uct is mu­sic with au­then­tic South African rhythms and in­stru­ments, as well as a mix of English, Xhosa and Afrikaans lyrics.”

Wine lovers will also have the chance to taste two Cape Winelands wines, which were blended spe­cially for the Car­ni­val.

“Thanks to the Rio Car­ni­val, 20 000 peo­ple there have per­ma­nent jobs and up to 500 000 peo­ple are hired sea­son­ally. That’s the kind of growth and job cre­ation we’re striv­ing for,” said Meyer.

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