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“A stratospheric display of Africa’s culture”
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“A stratospheric display of Africa’s culture”

Adebayo Victor profileWhat began as a Christmas carnival has grown into a massive celebration of Africa’s culture and heritage, writes Adebayo Victor, 25, a Correspondent from Ibadan in Nigeria, who attended this year’s Calabar festival in Nigeria.

Since 2004 a festival that started as a Christmas celebration for local residents has grown in leaps and bounds to become Africa’s biggest street party.

The annual festival is the innovation of the CrossriverState government in Nigeria, and now attracts a magnanimous number of tourists from all walks of life to the carnival city of Calabar.

Unarguably the best held since inception and unmatched by any of its kind on the continent, the 2013 edition of Calabar festival with the theme “Ain’t no stopping us” was an exhibition of beauty, costumes, creativity and imaginative interpretation of the theme; all demonstrating the state government’s commitment to culture and tourism.

The Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Saturday, 30th November heralded 32 days of sky-high variety of events ranging from cultural dance and drama, music, sports, fashion and beauty pageant competitions that culminated in the carnival; which is generally regarded as the acme of the festival with five competing bands namely Seagull, Bayside, Masta Blasta, Freedom and Passion 4 contending for the ultimate prize of being tagged “the band of the year”.

High point of the festival was the Christmas day show at the UJ Esuene stadium which practically lighted the city of Calabar as thousands of carnival enthusiasts were thrilled by the colourful display by the children and adult representatives of each band. At every stage of the presentation, there were exhibitions of different exciting and wonderful performances aimed at entertaining the spectators and also interpreting the theme of the carnival. The show ended with virtuoso performances by different upcoming and star artists as well as a dance competition with winners going home with exciting prizes.

The Children’s Carnival on 26th December played host to a large crowd of tourists who were enthusiastic about catching a glimpse of what the “little ones” have to offer them. The first major event of the day was the cultural cavalcade of representatives from the 18 local government areas in the state who were all dressed in local regalia, displaying their unique history and heritage with exciting cultural dances and songs. At mid-day, the well-dressed children carnival bands entertained people as they create a riot of colour and sparkle along the five kilometre carnival route, accompanied by live music with a lot of fun that kindled the interest of people, who were thrilled by the topnotch performance to watch out for the adult carnival.

On Friday, 27th December, the pedestrian walkway of the 12-kilometre long adult carnival route was lined with a mammoth crowd waiting patiently for the event to kick-start on the big day. Practically speaking, the city of Calabar appeared to have the total population of Nigerians living in it that day. Major roads were blocked, government institutions were under lock and key, and only a few private business enterprises were opened for skeletal services. After waiting patiently till mid-day, the indescribable entertainment started with a warm glow of eye-catching display, as the competing bands came out in their finest costumes and thought-provoking master-class designs with various stunning dance steps and acrobatic moves. Indeed, they happily occupied the hearts of spectators who were obviously elated to see the biggest entertainment that only a personal experience can better explain.

Celebrities and Nollywood stars like Funke Akindele, Uiti Nwachuwku, Ini Edo and Tonto Dikeh were also spotted at the event, fully dressed in their colourful carnival attire. They gave the event glitter with their display of fashion, beauty and entertainment. The foreign troupes – Trinidad and Tobago steel band as well as a Rwanda dance group – also made the 2013 edition of Calabar carnival a memorable one.

The wrap up of the day was at the UJ Esuene stadium as people converged to see a presentation from Nigeria star musician Kcee and also to hear the declaration of the band that came out on top. Interestingly, there was one more final presentation for the crowd to see and this came from the former Governor of the state, Mr. Donald Duke and his wife, Onari Duke who were dressed in very alluring costumes as they waved to the crowd, who gave cheerful ovation in return. After many fanfares, the final moment of the day came and the MASTA BLASTA band was declared overall winner owing to their aesthetic and innovative performance put together at interpreting the theme of the carnival.

It was my first live experience of Calabar festival and I can confidently say it is fun, exciting, entertaining and exhilarating. But beneath all those beautiful adjectives (which are in no way an exaggeration) Calabar festival is an event that showcases the beauty of the African continent to the whole world.

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About me: I am a young and dynamic bilingual health care professional with a staunch desire to help others in my local community and in other parts of the world.
As an Ex-Intern of Centre Hopitalier Universitaire and International Committee of Red Cross in Cote D’Ivoire I’m also an aspiring success catalyst.
I currently work as a consultant with Family Health International (www.fhi360.org) Cross River State, Nigeria.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit:
http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/
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