City invokes Rio spirit for first Carnival
Money woes won’t be a party pooper as Cape Town gets ready to samba, writes
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’
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.