By Jimoh Babatunde
•As foreign participants hail CRS govt
WHEN Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade, revealed that the 2018 Calabar Carnival was a platform to showcase Africa to the world, not many believed what was in store for participants and tourists.
In the last 14 years that the state government has been organising what has become the biggest carnival in Africa, no two editions have been the same as there is always something new to look forward to. With the theme for this year as Africanism, Gov. Ayade said: “We are here to tell the African story ourselves. Africans have a platform to use the opportunity of this dance and drama to tell the African story in a way that we know.”
He said Africa has the opportunity of telling the whole world its story the way it knows best which is through its dance and bright colours.
Indeed, participants and tourists were not disappointed with the colour, glamour and enthusiasm associated with the 2018 carnival which featured a parade composed of 50,000 costumed revellers.
An American, LaShawnda Marie, said: “With Africanism, I felt like I fit right in. They didn’t treat us differently. Even though I wasn’t from Nigeria, they made us all so comfortable. From the street parade to the performance, the energy of the crowd was amazing.”
Another American, Piper Peppers, said the parade/street party was fun with lots of dancing, music, and vibrant performances. “It went for miles and continued well after midnight.”
As the five major carnival bands and 10 non-competing bands showcased the best of African people through their costumes as they paraded along the 12- kilometre carnival route in incredible floats, the participants and tourists were thrilled by DJs and live music.
The Street Carnival as usual, attracted dignitaries and celebrities as some Nollywood actors, led by Zack Orji and Segun Arinze, also took part in the street procession.
Another major attraction at the Calabar Carnival 2018 was the international dimension it took as the State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, at the flag-off, disclosed that Calabar Carnival has become an international brand which draws interest from people all over the world.
“We are going to give you a new version of what Carnival Calabar represents” and so, on the day set aside for the over 30 participating countries, the UJ Esuene Stadium, Calabar, was literally set on fire.
The South African contingent won the first place with trademark Zulu dance delivered with a blazing performance that held the crowd spellbound, with the ladies baring it all.
Like South Africa, Swaziland put up a fascinating performance with bare-skin Swazi dance while Ghana put up a blend of magic, acrobatics and bare skin dance mixed with some spiritual display.
Mexico, with its colourful costume, came second as they danced to sonorous tunes that had African undertones. The men, clad in white shirts and red trousers moved in symmetry with their female counterparts who wore beautiful red attires.
Some of the stadium’s lighting was switched off to enable the audience better appreciate the Lithuanian fire presentation and by the time they were done, they were accorded a standing ovation. They came third.
The United States of America team represented by Columbus Socalistas Band was a delight to watch as the captivated crowd yearned for more. The team members could not hide their excitement after their performance.
Angie Cooper said: “Calabar was amazing. The stadium was huge and so many people came far and wide to see these well prepared performances.
“We practised day by day to get here. Everyone was happy. Smiles filled the air. People were friendly, welcoming and make you feel like these are your people.
“The performance was super fun. Although the U.S was cut two songs short, we gave a good show. The people cheered and shouted.
“All of the performances had my attention and exciting to see so many representatives of the different countries. I am extremely grateful for the trip.”
Melinda Merinda said: “Calabar was amazing! So rich in different cultures. The crowd was amazing and we enjoyed every minute entertaining the guests.”
Said LaShawnda Marie: “I had an amazing experience down in Nigeria during the Calabar Carnival. I saw so many different stunts, beautiful smiles and amazing vibes in the country.
I loved getting to meet the Governor and Nigerians really know how to have a great time.
With Africanism, I felt like I fit right in. They didn’t treat us differently. Even though I wasn’t from Nigeria, the Queen of Africa made us all so comfortable.”