Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Cape Town draped in color for 'slave' carnival

By Teo Kermeliotis, for CNN
January 7, 2014 -- Updated 1525 GMT (2325 HKT)
Thousands of revelers took to the streets of Cape Town Saturday to celebrate "Tweede Nuwe Jaar" (Second New Year). Thousands of revelers took to the streets of Cape Town Saturday to celebrate "Tweede Nuwe Jaar" (Second New Year).
HIDE CAPTION
Cape Town Minstrel Carnival
Cape Town Minstrel Carnival
Cape Town Minstrel Carnival
Cape Town Minstrel Carnival
Cape Town Minstrel Carnival
Cape Town Minstrel Carnival
Cape Town Minstrel Carnival
Cape Town Minstrel Carnival
Cape Town Minstrel Carnival
Cape Town Minstrel Carnival
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cape Town hosted Saturday its annual minstrel carnival celebrating the New Year
  • Revelers donned colorful costumes as they danced to the beat of marching bands
  • The street party celebrations are deeply rooted in the culture of the Cape Malay population

(CNN) -- Glittering jackets, pounding drums and faces covered in bright paints -- welcome to Cape Town's New Year carnival celebrations.

Thousands of lively performers dressed in eye-catching costumes paraded Saturday through the South African city, dancing and singing as throngs of cheering spectators swelled the streets to revel in the carnival atmosphere.

More than 70 minstrel troupes -- sporting panama hats and colorful bow-ties, as well as carrying umbrellas and waving parasols -- set the city center alive as brass bands and singers entertained the crowds to the beat of ghoema drums during this year's "Tweede Nuwe Jaar" ("Second New Year) parade.

Brazilian samba's African history
Inside the Cape Town Jazz Festival

Read this: Five African festivals you can't miss

"(It) may be compared to Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro, or the Notting Hill Carnival in London," says South African Michael Hutchinson, author of "Bo-Kaap: Colourful Heart of Cape Town" and "Mixit - Voices of the Bo-Kaap."

The annual street party, which usually takes place on January 2, rather than January 4, came after months of preparations for the participating troupes -- each group of dancers, singers and performers had to prepare their own colorful uniforms and practice their performance routines well in advance.

Rooted in slavery

The vibrant open-air celebrations, which are deeply rooted in the local Cape Malay population's culture and traditions, have been shaped by varied influences over the years. Yet, it is widely believed that their origins can be traced back to the dark days of slavery during South Africa's colonial period.

(It) may be compared to Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro, or the Notting Hill Carnival in London.
Michael Hutchinson, author

"The story goes that Tweede Nuwe Jaar was the day on which the Malay slaves were given time off, because their masters celebrated on New Year's Day," says Hutchinson.

Read more: Lagos festival puts mega city in the spotlight

In 1830s, slavery came to an end and the former slaves took to the streets to celebrate their freedom. These emancipation celebrations were apparently merged with the New Year festivities, creating a tradition that grew stronger in the following decades.

It is also understood that the carnival's current form has been influenced by the songs, costumes and performances of African American minstrels who arrived in Cape Town in 1860s to entertain crowds. The first edition of the carnival in its current form took place in 1907 and while the festivities were severely restricted during apartheid, the carnival has been growing in popularity in recent years.

Read this: The township teens turned opera stars

Saturday's festivities were just one part of the wider carnival. The celebrations will continue in the following weeks as thousands of onlookers are expected to attend competitions to determine the best troupes, choirs and bands.

Click through the gallery above for a taste of this year's street party atmosphere.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
March 14, 2014 -- Updated 1415 GMT (2215 HKT)
A huge spiral in the Sahara had Google Earth users baffled by what it could be. So what exactly is it?
March 6, 2014 -- Updated 1027 GMT (1827 HKT)
A photographer took to an ultra-light aircraft to capture Botswana's savannah from above. The results are amazing.
March 25, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
CNN's Zain Verjee took on Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, in a bid to see its mountain gorillas.
March 21, 2014 -- Updated 1020 GMT (1820 HKT)
Morocco is famous for its historic cities and rugged landscape. But it's becoming known as a surfer's paradise.
March 3, 2014 -- Updated 1059 GMT (1859 HKT)
"The Samaritans" is a new Kenyan comedy that takes a mocking look at the world of inept African aid organizations.
February 28, 2014 -- Updated 1029 GMT (1829 HKT)
A Moroccan food blogger presents her interactive guide to the country's tastiest dishes.
February 13, 2014 -- Updated 1159 GMT (1959 HKT)
South African photographer Frank Marshall captured Botswana's heavy metal rockers as part of his Renegades series.
You might not associate Botswana with rock music, but in recent years its heavy metal scene has been making a name for itself.
January 29, 2014 -- Updated 1117 GMT (1917 HKT)
The ruined town of Great Zimbabwe is part of a kingdom that flourished almost 1,000 years ago, and a bridge to the past.
January 22, 2014 -- Updated 1139 GMT (1939 HKT)
A Cameroon supporter smiles during celebrations after Cameroon qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil after winning the second leg qualifying football match between Cameroon and Tunisia on November 17, 2013 in Yaounde.
Known for its diverse geography and culture, Cameroon could be on the dawn of becoming known for tourism.
January 21, 2014 -- Updated 1116 GMT (1916 HKT)
The world's only "Flying Eye Hospital" is a DC-10 jet that flies around the world carrying out sight-saving operations.
January 27, 2014 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
Mount Etna, Europe's most active volcano, explodes spilling lava down the mountain sides and shooting ash into the sky October 30, 2002 near the town of Nicolosi, near Catania, Italy.
A Kenyan TV production set in the year 2063 imagines a world where European refugees are fleeing to Africa.
January 16, 2014 -- Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
Tour d'Afrique
The Tour d'Afrique is a four-month, 12,000 km cycle race across the length of Africa.
Each week Inside Africa highlights the true diversity of the continent as seen through the mediums of art, music, travel and literature.
ADVERTISEMENT