5 January 2013

Nigeria: How Open Display of Nudity Marred Calabar Carnival

Calabar — The costume of Brazilian women participants at the last Calabar Carnival, which reveals more than it covers, has generated controversy. Religious leaders in the state are asking whether the state was better off spiritually one month after the carnival.

Many did not believe their eyes, but truly amongst the celebrants and cultural troupes from within and outside Nigeria who took part in the just concluded Calabar Carnival, the Brazilian women were virtually naked during the carnival. Most of them marched and danced round the major routes of Calabar seductively, from the popular Millennium Park (the starting point of the Carnival) through such roads like Mary Slessor, Marian Roads and IBB Way into the UJ Esuene stadium.

It was not only the 26-member Brazilian team called Vai Vai Samba Band that thrilled the crowd. Other Nigerian women participants that got wind of the Brazilian pattern of dressing quickly adorned themselves with such see-through panties so as to catch attention. Dancing step-by-step and dexterously to the carnival music, thousands of onlookers, especially young men, said it loudly how provoked they were by the seductresses from foreign lands.

Out of the five regular bands that participated in the competitive carnival, by far it was the Brazilian girls who showed the way. And much attention of the participants and onlookers as well as the media was therefore on no other bands than themselves, including the Trinidad & Tobago troupe. These were the two nations that conspicuously displayed at the Calabar Carnival.

The Calabar carnival has survived many years because of the five major bands, including Bayside (led by former Environment Minister, John Odey), Masta Blasta (led by Gershom Bassey), Freedom (led by Iyam Ugot), Seagull (led by Senator Florence Ita-Giwa), and Passion Four (led by Ekpenyong Bassey). Masta Blasta Band won the 2012 Carnival Calabar Competition and carted home the star prize of N10 million as Band of the Year.

Chairman of the State Tourism Commission, Mr. Gabe Onah, said the second position was won by Passion 4 Band while the third place was won by Freedom Band and went home with N5 million and N3 million respectively.

Masta Blasta Band also won the Carnival Float, Best Band on the Move, Carnival Spirit, Best Interpretation of the Carnival Theme and Best Costumes and received N2 million respectively.

In the Junior Category, the Band of the year was won Seagull Band, Second was Masta Blasta while Third was Passion Four and each got N3 million, N2 million and N1 million respectively. Seagull Band won the Carnival Spirit, Best Interpretation of Carnival Theme while Masta Blasta Band won the best costumes.

The Junior King was won by Masta Blasta and Queen by Seagull and each went home with N5 million respectively

Interestingly, neither the Brazilian contingent nor the organizers saw anything wrong in the introduction of nudity into the Calabar Carnival and what likely effects it could have on the impressionable youths who are mostly the active celebrants in the carnival. What kind of future therefore does the carnival carry? The possibility is that in the next celebrations, Nigerian celebrants in the Carnival and others will not only dance naked but will attempt to surpass the Brazilians, said one of the observers who questioned the mode of dressing of some of the participants.

The Brazilian panties and their brassieres and suggestive dance-steps were too revealing. But they cared not. Some happily displayed their voluptuous backsides and busts as they giggled and shook their waist to the rhythm of the carnival music in the over three hours walk through the town. Many doubt that, apart from entertaining the crowd and attempt to interpret the theme of the carnival, many actually learnt anything or that it added another plus to the celebration.

The band leader Thobias Da Vai-vai explained that the swinging steps and appearances of the winsome Brazilian women were not strange to them, because these were essential parts of their carnivals.

Speaking through an interpreter, the leader of the Sao Poalo band, Thobias Da Vai-vai described the carnival as marvelous and the town peaceful and said they were happy to be part of the Calabar Carnival and how arrested they were after visiting many tourist sites in the state.

Vai-vai explained that Carnival is a practical way of thanking God through joy and party and that they have used that medium as an independent nation to express themselves internationally. He said they were in Calabar to display Brazilian Samba, which is reputed to be a world class dancing styles and costumes which have been explored to promote their nation's tourism.

Obviously having the carnival in mind, Acting governor of Cross River State, Efiok Cobham, said recently "before our own very eyes, Calabar has become Africa's foremost destination. We have perfected plans to raise the bar on all the performance indices that have stood Cross River out in the last decade. We know that we are not yet where we should be as a people, but our destination is within sight. And dear Cross Riverians, we shall get there!"

Chairman of the state tourism board, Gabe Onah said the carnival has grown in leaps and bounds and that the cultural content is the soul of the participation. According to him, Governor Liyel Imoke introduced it into the Calabar Festival so that the cultural values and tradition of the people do not extinct

He said the visiting Brazilian Samba band has won international competitions 14 times and its presence in the state would boost the content of Carnival Calabar.

As the state government glee with the success of the cranival, within the religious circle, tongues are wagging. Expectedly, religious and traditional leaders in Cross River State have raised alarm that morality has become heavily compromised in the yearly Calabar Carnival. President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria in Cross River State and founder of Christian Central Chapel, Bishop Emmah Isong, said the level of blatant display of nudity in the 2012 edition of the carnival was the highest since its inception, and that such was in complete contravention of African values which encourage women to cover their nakedness.

According to him, there will be calamity in the 2013 edition, adding that the nation should pray for the 10th day of this year's carnival.

The Christian leader in Calabar found fault with the costumes of some bands which rendered dancers half naked. He said that the actual performance painted a picture of promiscuity, depravity and high level of immorality before children.

Isong noted that the Governor's wife has once banned costumes which expose vital parts of the dancers' bodies. He said, "I do not hate the tourism inclinations of the Cross River State government or the Calabar Carnival if it brings dollars into the pockets of Cross Riverians, but any activity of whatever name, which spreads the spirit of lust, promotes idolatry and promiscuity is condemnable. If carnivals entail dancing naked in the streets, then, government would have to look deeply into it.

Isong wondered if the state was better off spiritually after the one month devoted to the carnival. "Are these imported cultures of nudity doing us any good?"

In the same vein, former chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria in Cross River State, Archibong Archibong, also condemned the introduction of nudity in the carnival, wondering what actually the organizers were aiming to achieve. "This is going to bring about other dangerous dimensions in this state which we might have difficulty to tame," he said.

However, before the Trinidad & Tobago cultural troupe from the Port of Spain participated in the Calabar Carnival, they spent three days with a religious leader in the state, His Holiness Olumba Olumba Obu where their 20-member steel band specially performed at the headquarters of Brotherhood of the Cross and Star.

The high commissioner of that country to Nigeria, His Excellency, Nyahuma M. Obika, accompanied by his wife Deira Obika, said the essence of his second visit to Olumba was to consolidate on the bilateral relationship and to entrench his country's music in the country.

His Holiness Olumba Olumba Obu expressing happiness for their visit, advised them to observe all decorum and honesty during their stay in Nigeria and participation in the Calabar Carnival.

Meanwhile, Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) Otumba Olusegun Runsewe has commended Governor Imoke for further expanding the carnival to include the Brazilians and other countries.

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