The Seychelles islands continue to make a splash in the world of carnival with the countdown to the third edition of their highly-successful Carnaval International de Victoria scheduled to take place this coming Friday. Minister Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture, will have the honor of setting the ball rolling for the 2013 carnival, set for February 8-10.
Seychelles re-entered the world of carnivals in 2011 after Seychelles President James Michel, who then held the portfolio for tourism, launched the Seychelles Brand of Tourism and called for more than just sun, sea, and sand as a sales pitch for the islands. It was at this same time that the President invited Seychelles to claim back their industry that remained the pillar of the island’s economy.
Seychelles’ credentials for holding carnivals stretch back some forty years when the then Chief Minister of Seychelles, Sir James Mancham, organized the islands’ first carnival at which the guest of honor was Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret and her husband, the Hon. Anthony Armstrong-Jones.
This particular carnival was also designed to bring the Seychelles islands to the attention of the world, following the opening of Seychelles’ International Airport on July 4, 1971, when the first BOAC VC10 aircraft landed to officially launch Seychelles as a tourism destination. The carnival was followed by another in 1976 and formed part of the Independence Celebrations of June 29, 1976 when the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, representing Her Majesty the Queen, joined the then President Sir James Mancham and Prime Minister Albert Rene as guests of honor.
Seychelles, then, is hardly new to the world of carnival, whose mantle it again took up in 2011 with the first edition of what has become known as the “Carnival of Carnivals.” This, on account of how it welcomes representatives from some of the world’s most famous carnival events: Brazil, Notting Hill, Dusseldorf, and Trinidad & Tobago, among others, as part of its spectacular carnival procession parading alongside cultural groups from the Community of Nations who are happy and not ashamed to showcase their respective culture and their people as they proudly fly their country’s flag for the world at large to see.
Another name for the Carnaval International de Victoria is the “melting pot of cultures” and this, where Seychelles is concerned, is particularly apt because of the islands’ ethnic composition, weaving exotic strands from the world over into a tightly-knit society in which harmony remains a way of life. It is on account of this rare and beautiful homogeny that some even go as far as to claim that “what Seychelles is today, the world will be tomorrow,” for there can be few better examples of people of different ethnicity living peacefully together as one, than Seychelles.
It is with these credentials that Seychelles re-entered the world of carnival in 2011, bringing a spectacle to the normally sleepy streets of the nation which, by some estimates pulled one-third of the population into the capital over three days of carnival extravaganza, live entertainment, international food stall,s and an electric atmosphere which, arguably, the capital had never before witnessed in its entire history.
In the audience, a coterie of foreign dignitaries joined the President of the Republic and members of government to listen to music legend and United Nations Food & Agriculture Representative, Dionne Warwick, as she argued passionately on behalf of the planet’s poor.
The second, 2012 edition drew the largest cohort of foreign press ever to come to Seychelles and witnessed live entertainment and cultural manifestations from both local and international groups such as guest artists Micheal Quinn and the Bourbon Kings of the United States, Francois Dal’s from La Reunion, and Lima Calbio of Trinidad and Tobago. High on the entertainment agenda was the 2012 carnival theme song – “Sa Karnaval” – performed by Jean-Marc Volcy and supporting local musicians. In a show of support for the carnival, Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of the UN World Tourism Organization, made an appearance as did BBC’s famous anchor Aaron Heselhurst.
The 2012 “Carnaval International de Victoria” attracted over 30 international groups and countries such as the UK Notting Hill Carnival, Indonesia, China, Zimbabwe, La Reunion, Dusseldorf, South Africa, the USA, India, and Italy and set the tone for the third edition which is due to burst onto the Victoria scene in February 2013.
“With its innate spontaneity, great natural beauty, and wonderful racial mix, Seychelles is a natural home for a carnival,” enthused Elsia Grandcourt, CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board, whose “Celebrate Seychelles Events Team” is responsible for organizing the annual carnival. “We may only be small in terms of size and influence, but it is heartening to see how our carnival has captured the imagination of a world so lacking in harmony and camaraderie and how it has inspired people to believe in friendship and collaboration,” she added.
Now, with two successful carnivals already under its belt, the third Carnaval International de Victoria is planned for February 8-10, 2013, and at present, many international participants: Notting Hill, South Africa, Brazil, La Reunion, Zimbabwe, Italy, Emirates, S. Korea, Indonesia, Trinidad & Tobago, and India among many others have already confirmed their presence.
The format will be similar to that of previous editions, with an official launch in the presence of President James Michel before members of Seychelles’ government and foreign dignitaries, to be followed by live music shows by foreign and local artists and other forms of entertainment, all complemented by international food stalls featuring cuisines from across the world. Once again, members of foreign press and media organizations are expected to be present in force to bring the Seychelles carnival to the world.
The second day will feature the carnival procession with representatives from the world’s most renowned carnivals, local floats from Seychelles, and contingents from foreign navies whose presence in port will be timed to coincide with the carnival. The navies from the Community of Nations all rally in Port Victoria as a show of solidarity against the “armed bandits from Somalia,” the 20th century plague impacting on the sea routes of the East Coast of Africa and the Gulf of Aden which has impacted on increases in shipping costs and impacted on added misery on Africa. After the floats there will be further live entertainment as the carnival atmosphere picks up tempo. The carnival will finish with a family fun day and an opportunity for everyone to descend on the capital to celebrate in true carnival – and Seychelles – spirit, which after 40 years of carnival, is alive and well.
Seychelles is a founding member of the International Coalition of Tourism Partners (ICTP).