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Seychelles Carnival – the golden touch

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Africa Correspondent  Apr 24, 2016

It was a perfect day in Victoria, Seychelles’ capital city, when the parade of the Carnaval International de Victoria went underway at 3 pm sharp.

A few clouds in the sky above; a cooling breeze from the ocean; and a changed routing which provided much more space for the VIPs, invited guests, and media made for the type of conditions one normally hopes for but rarely gets.

Vice President Faure stood in for President James Alix Michel who, after the official opening at the Stade Popiler, had to travel abroad, and former President Sir Mancham joined him and other dignitaries to enjoy the 2-hour long juggernaut of carnivalistas waltzing, dancing, and – in some cases – somersaulting along.

Twenty-three foreign troupes of carnivals - the best from around the world - were led by Brazil, followed by the German “Karnevalsvereine” from Duesseldorf and Cologne, the latter joining for the first time but arguably not the last. They were joined by groups from Notting Hill, China, South Korea, Vietnam, Italy, and Indonesia, as well as from co-hosts Reunion Island and South Africa, and Kenya and Zambia, to name but a few. Dozens of local floats from the Seychelles also took part, their quality vastly improved over the years and in particular costumes now fit for textbooks and floats skillfully decorated, in part as a result of Notting Hill’s workshops, teaching Seychellois tailors and decorators how to go about this demanding business.

Spectators lined the new route like never before, and already an hour before the parade started, the sidewalks were packed with babies, children, parents, and grandparents all lined up to see this annual spectacle. The police showed off with their friendliest faces and kept smiling throughout as everyone else was on their best behavior, too.

eTN’s Nelson Alcantara’s critical look took even himself by surprise. One wonders what it was he saw, but needless to say, the lady copper next to him, full of smiles herself, probably made sure that his smiles also returned on the double.

And then the grand parade began, a 2-hour juggernaut of creativity and carnivalista passion unrivaled in its global reach and variety.

Having carnival troupes from all over the world at the Seychelles Carnival makes it unique and provides spectators with an experience which in this format is not found anywhere else. It is no wonder Seychelles Tourism Minister Alain St.Ange called the event the “United Nations of Culture,” prompting this correspondent to add the United Nations of Carnivalistas. The sheer variety of displays, costumes, and performances have catapulted the Seychelles Carnival into the top 5 in the world, no doubt giving those who promoted the concept some well-deserved satisfaction while putting their critics into place.

The parade mix between local and foreign displays was also well arranged and kept the audience cheering on their favorite local participants. Both the official opening and the parade brought out a combined thousands of Seychellois and also attracted hundreds of tourists who left the beaches to see this juggernaut, many of them in fact on the islands for that purpose of seeing the parade.

On Sunday, today, the Children’s Carnival is taking place, creating the next generation of Seychellois carnivalistas, and Freedom Square is the place to be, filled with music, food, and drink stalls to take care of that peckish feeling and that dry throat after cheering on the kids when they perform on stage, something many have rehearsed for since last year’s Carnival ended.

Also today, the Seychelles Tourism Board will bring the Carnival to the second largest island of Praslin to showcase what many Pralinoise were unable to see, another first in the now 6-year history of this high-profile showcase. There, at the La Pirogue Restaurant, select groups of foreign participants will do their thing, dance and sing, and no doubt tourists staying on Praslin will also take the opportunity to cram into the venue for a glimpse of the world of carnivals coming to the Seychelles.

Seychelles Carnival – the golden touch
Key drivers of Carnival - Minister St. Ange & Ms. Naiken / All photos © Wolfgang H. Thome

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