The Herald (Harare)

20 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Carnival Preps Gain Momentum

More than 20 artistic groups in different genres are expected in Zimbabwe mid-year when the country hold its first ever international carnival, as the nation gears itself towards strengthening its cultural and tourism brand through art.

It will be a potpourri of performances when different artistes from more than 15 countries -- Brazil included take to the streets and eventually to the stage on the musical night, in marketing Zimbabwe as a tourist destination.

Already seven countries among them Brazil, Seychelles and Zambia have since confirmed participation in the debut's carnival, an event that promises to illuminate Harare's streets with bright costumes, gestural, verbal, graphic, musical language, dance and colour.

It will indeed be a blend of colours, dresses, parties and musical rhythms like salsa, sungura, calypso, rhumba and soca will engulf the streets of Harare as invited nations join Zimbabwe marketing the country as a tourist hub.

For a good week, the nation will also have an opportunity to sample different cuisine from several countries, get an insight into different cultural practices and partake in streets parades that would be the major highlight of the carnival.

Speaking at a Press conference last week soon after arrival from Seychelles where Zimbabwe co-hosted the Carnival International de Victoria, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief Karikoga Kaseke said the tourism sector and the nation had a lot to benefit from the carnival, in terms of business opportunities and synergies that would be created through interaction.

"As a tourist destination, we need to up our game and continue coming up with different initiatives to promote the tourism in industry.

"We have been attending the carnival in Seychelles for the past three years and we learnt a lot of lessons and concept that we can develop to benefit the tourism industry in the long run.

"We are planning on hosting the carnival at a time when business is usually low in the tourism sector, so that we can boost it. There are still some people who think we are doing this as a one off event as a build up to the UNWTO.

"This is not the case, because this is ongoing exercises, which we are planning on further developing," he said.

Carnivals are not a new phenomenon, but are held world over to celebrate different events throughout the year.

They have got their origins in the Catholic Church in Italy which started the tradition of holding a wild costume festival right before the first day of Lent.

Because Catholics are not supposed to eat meat during Lent, they called their festival, carnevale -- which means "to put away the meat."

As time passed, carnivals in Italy became quite famous and in fact the practice spread to France, Spain and all the Catholic countries in Europe.

Then as the French, Spanish, and Portuguese began to take control of the Americas and other parts of the world, they brought with them their tradition of celebrating carnival.

The dynamic economic and political history of the Caribbean has contributed to the ingredients of festival arts as we find them today throughout the African and Caribbean Diaspora.

It is said that Africa has had a great influence on the type of dress code, music and the parades that characterise carnivals across the world. For instance most of the carnivals that are held in the Caribbean depict the African traditions of parading and moving in circles through villages in costumes and masks.

Circling then was believed to bring good fortune, to heal problems and chill out angry relatives who had died and passed on to the next world. Carnival traditions also borrow from the African tradition of putting together natural objects such as bones and beads, while feathers were frequently used by Africans in their motherland on masks and headdresses as a symbol of their ability as humans to rise above problems, pains, heartbreaks, and illness.

Today, there are many countries such as Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, South Korea and Indonesia that use feathers in many forms in creating carnival costumes.

African dance and music traditions transformed the early carnival celebrations in the Americas, as African drum rhythms, large puppets, stick fighters, and stilt dancers began to make their appearances in the carnival festivities.

Apart from entertaining people, carnivals have been known to unite the world, through music, dance and sharing of cultures.

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