News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Tuesday July 16th 2019

New Cape Town Carnival ‘an invented import’


The Cape Town Carnival set for Saturday, has been criticised for importing a Brazilian aesthetic and disregarding Cape Town’s own history.

The criticism of the event featuring floats, processions and costumed revellers along the fan walk, came during talks featured as part of the current Infecting the City public arts festival.

While the Cape Town Carnival claims to “bring together South Africans to celebrate our culture and heritage”, UCT Centre for African Studies PhD researcher Oddveig Nicole Sarmiento in discussion on Tuesday, said it was “an invented and imported festival from Rio (de Janeiro)”.

Sarmiento said importing a carnival implied the city was an empty space devoid of history and people.

Meanwhile, Cape Town already had a carnival whose history was over 100 years old. The Minstrels Carnival, also known as the Kaapse Klopse, which takes place on 2 January, sees thousands of minstrels make their way through the city from the Bo-Kaap in commemoration of the only day in the year that slaves in the Cape got a day off.

There is some feeling amongst those involved with the Minstrels Carnival that by holding the Cape Town Carnival, the City is trying to undermine the old carnival routes.

Kevin Momberg, CEO of the Cape Town Minstrels Carnival Association, said that the city had planned to incorporate the Minstrels Carnival into the new Cape Town Carnival and just have one in March, showing blatant disregard for the 2 January Carnival’s history.

The Minstrel Association had already taken the Provincial Government and the City to court in 2010 for trying to shift the carnival by a day to 1 January.

“They have created a carnival on top of us,” said Momberg.

When the Cape Town Carnival was established in the same year as the South African world cup, the Minstrels Association was invited to be part of it.

“We sat down and talked, we had meetings and discussions and they were excited to have us involved.”

However, when the Association asked for funding for buses and food for their minstrels, the offer of inclusion was quickly withdrawn, said Momberg.

“They have money to run the show, and we were just getting peanuts. We are tired of being used and abused.”

Fadiel Gasant, CEO of the Ashwin Willemse group of committees, which is responsible for the Oriet Cape Minstrels troupe, said he had applied for the troupe to be included in the Cape Town Carnival, but he had received no response from the Cape Town Carnival organisors.

“I’m not on board. They have excluded us and I don’t know why,” said Gasant.

Momberg also said he didn’t understand where the money from the City for the Minstrels Carnival went. Most, he said, goes towards the “infrastructure of the carnival”: towards the security and policing. Hardly any of the nearly R4million spent by the city reached the performing groups.

“The City keeps changing things left right and centre,” said Momberg. “We want to have an input with the event coordinators. We want to be able to discuss and make it better for all of us. It is our show, our people who are involved. It celebrates our heritage and culture and traditions.”

Grant Pascoe, Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, said the City was excited about the Cape Town Carnival this weekend.

“Last year there were close to 100 000 people lining the streets. We are looking forward to some great exhibitions.”

“It’s been growing, there are around 4000 participants, and it brings people together from all over the city; various communities. So there is some job creation. People spend months working on their floats and it keeps young people off the streets.”

He said it was “totally different” from the Minstrels Carnival.

“Initially we would have loved to combine the two, but they are something different,” he said.

“Kaapse Klopse is more of a traditional carnival, celebrating freedom from slavery. There are about 13 000 participants and between 50 and 60 000 people come to watch.”

“This (new) one is totally different, we are trying to base it on the Rio carnival.” – Katie de Klee

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3 Responses to “New Cape Town Carnival ‘an invented import’”

  1. […] So if the carnival is a celebration of Cape Town, why then when I think of the flamboyant floats displaying the legendary Van Hunks smoking on Table Mountain, The Flying Dutchman in full sail, the colourful Namaqualand Daisies, the ancient Khoi-San legend of The Mantis and the Moon, the spectacular Queen of Sheba, and fierce Nyami-Nyami, The Spirit of the Zambezi do I still think of the world renowned Rio Carnival? The Cape Town Carnival has been critiqued over the years for “importing” the whole idea of a city carnival from Brazil and disregarding our own heritage in the process. In a discussion as part of the “Infecting The City” public arts festival on Tuesday, UCT Centre for African Studies PhD researcher Oddveig Nicole Sarmiento said that “while the Cape Town Carnival claims to bring together South Africans to celebrate our culture and heritage, it was an invented and imported festival from Rio (de Janeiro)”, implying that our own city is devoid of history and culture. Let’s not forget that Cape Town already has a long standing traditional Carnival – “The Minstrels Carnival” aka “The Kaapse Klopse”, celebrating over 100 years of commemoration to the only day a year that slaves were given the day off, 2 January. Kevin Momberg, CEO of the Cape Town Minstrels Carnival Association spoke on behalf of the Klopse when he said that they felt the city was undermining old carnival routes by implementing this new Cape Town Carnival and that “they have created a carnival on top of us” (  […]

  2. […] floats, processions and costumed revellers along the fan walk, came during … Read more on West Cape News ← Mark McCarthy and friends in Cape Town – Cape Town Video Cancel […]

  3. Rupert says:

    The whole thing was a glorified procession. Without the couple of big screens one would see nothing. Where was all the food? Apparently the food stalls were on the north side of Somerset Rd. With no apparent way of crossing the road we hunted food for an hour, only to spend R20 on the smallest boerie roll i have ever seen.
    The highlight for us was one of the radio stations mobile studios. Folks getting down to some good tunes. Other than that a thoroughly boring walk about. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good street fest. Nottinghill carnival is amazing. The mother city has a lot to learn, and those organising it need to look at their model very carefully. I will definitely not return until the whole approach is relooked, and is better communicated. I can think of dozens of ways to make this thing work. Start things earlier, insert mini stages for local entertainment, food and drink zones – allow locals to sell their home made kos, setup map points (mini billboard that won’t blow over) showing people where they can find what, etc, etc. Come on Cape Town. There is way more to a carnival than a procession of floats. The floats, what we saw of them, were really well done. Shame the rest of the event was such a shambles.

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