The Carnival got off to a patchy start – slightly frustrating as it had taken a lot of effort to elbow and worm my way through the congestion of onlookers to a decent vantage point. I eventually managed to get a peek at a cavalcade of Harley Davidsons roaring through the street. Then… nothing. A large gap, a meaningless interval while we milled around some more.
But when things eventually got under way, there was a real sense of celebration of diversity through South Africa’s ethnic culture. The Carnival was possibly the biggest cultural event Cape Town has experienced – and certainly the most fun, despite the fact that people were squeezed shoulder to shoulder like sardines in a can. An event of this magnitude must be a headache to arrange but I definitely think this issue needs to be more closely addressed next year.
I was more than happy to be distracted from this by the beautiful showgirls – the icing on any carnival cake – leading the way with their dazzling, extravagant costumes. The abstract and ingenious thinking behind the float designs deserves to be applauded along with the colourful dancers and entertainers that followed. In between the crowd was treated to marching bands, giant zorbs, massive puppets, stiltwalkers and other performers of all shapes and sizes.
I counted about a dozen colourful floats, each one distinctive and expressive of the Carnival theme ‘Dream the Future’, with elaborate models of things such as a spaceship, a giant phoenix, and a surreal wooden wagon topped by a giant drag queen puppet. Dancers, jugglers and marching bands set the street ablaze with colour, accompanied with booming sound systems and pods of drummers adding more hype to the already frenetic atmosphere. As the last float passed, Long Street was closed, allowing 5fm’s DJ Fresh to hammer in some beats to thousands of revellers who partied the night away.
Any carnival is bound to be held up for comparison against the Rio Carnival. I have no idea how they would compare, but as a showcase of local community talent this event did us Capetonians proud. I would hazard a guess that our carnival had the glamour of Rio’s if not the size and experience… and it had a distinct African flavour.
All in all it was hugely reminiscent of the party spirit that imbued the city during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Sore feet and a killer morning headache were the result of having too much of a good time, but needless to say I’ll be back next year. Next time though I hope the organisers will aim to improve the fluency of the procession and the capacity of the crowd. Oh and, if it’s not too much to ask, could I have some reserved parking?