Notting Hill Carnival may be Europe’s biggest street party but wait till you see what Africa has to offer. Countries all over the continent have been hosting their own spectacular carnivals for years (and in some cases, centuries) that draw in spectators from all over the world. These colourful celebrations are a cross-cultural exchange that combine all the charm and glamour of Rio but with an extra special African twist.
It’s interesting to see that most of the biggest carnivals happen in Lusophone countries which have a shared Portuguese colonial connection with Brazil, the undisputed home of Carnival. But it’s great to also that Nigeria and South Africa have started their own carnival traditions. We’re sure this will catch on across Africa, a continent bursting with all the right ingredients of a rich and vibrant culture, music, story-telling, dance, and creativity. Small carnival-like celebrations happen all the time at occasions such as weddings and coronations, bearing all the hallmarks of carnival: feasting, merriment, processions with ancestral costumes and symbolisms, drumming and singing. It’s only a matter of time before these consolidate to create bigger street parties….or so we hope!
Cape Town Carnival
This annual carnival that runs in March began in 2010 and is a creative showcase that celebrates the diversity of South Africa. They also welcome participants from outside the country with floats from the UK also getting in on the fun. Expect traditional performers alongside creative out-of-this-world costumes.
Photo Credit: Frank Krummacher and the PhotoKru team
Billed as Africa’s biggest street party, this 4 day event takes place around Christmas in Cross River State, Nigeria. While it is all fun and revelry for spectators, those taking part in the procession take it very seriously. 5 bands compete every year with elaborate floats and costumes that reflect the set theme, in the hopes of taking home the much coveted title of ‘Band Of The Year’.
Photo credit: Tunde Lemuel
Photo courtesy of Africa News Circle
Originating in 1857, the Luanda Carnival in Angola is most likely the oldest carnival in Africa and Angolans take it just as seriously as Brazilians. Large parades take over Central Luanda and participants compete in costumes that pay homage to their nation. The Semba/Samba dance and music genre originated in Angola and is often performed at carnival.
Photo Credit: Pedro Parente via Agencia Angola Press
Quelimane Carnival is the largest in Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony. The carnivals here are a marriage between European and African tradition. You can expect to find the traditional bright costumes of carnival alongside painted African warriors.
Sao Vicente Carnival
Festivals are an important pastime for the Cape Verdeans with the biggest celebrations taking place on the island of Sao Vicente. Head to Mindelo for the Creole Festival each February inspired by the carnival festivities and costumes of Brazil with a Portuguese flavour mised in, and the Full Moon Festival at Baia das Gatas celebrated at the end of August. The most popular feast of São Vicente is the Carnival which is inspired by the carnivals of Brazil and mixed with their shared history of Portuguese flavours. The largest of the celebrations can be found in the town of Mindelo and can begin as early as 9am!
Have you attended any one of these beautiful carnivals? We’d love to hear about your experiences. Comment below!