Although Africa is not a continent where carnival is practiced as in the case of Europe, Latin America or the Caribbean; the traditions, customs, colors and dances definitely have African origins. In addition, the continent has been practicing for hundreds of years festivals, dances and traditions that are extremely similar to the carnivals known today, only they are not considered carnivals in the strict sense of the word.
Some countries in Africa began to celebrate carnivals some years ago with the purpose of incentivizing tourism, economic activity or simply as commemorative events towards their own culture. These festivities have been gradually growing, becoming celebrations that mark history in the continent.
We accompany you to know the 10 Best Carnivals in Africa.
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Maputo is the capital city of Mozambique, a country located at the southeastern tip of the entire continent. Carnival in the city counts a few years since it began to be celebrated, despite the city having been under the control of Portuguese settlers for many years. The celebration arose as an incentive to promote the economic activity of the city, attracting tourists to watch the parades and take part in the activities.
The event is carried out by the different public and private organizations in the country, which provide means and spaces to carry out the parades and the celebrations. In each edition of the carnivals, various parades with dance routines are held. These parades are usually carried out by student groups from different schools in the city. In addition, each school or group is mentored by a nationally renowned artist who can provide live entertainment.
The event is public and outdoors, where stages and special spaces are installed for each group to perform their own repertoire of music and dance. In addition, the celebration has prizes for the best group to encourage participation. The dance and music pieces are loaded with different cultural elements that represent the Mozambican identity.
The carnivals seek to promote Mozambican culture through the performance of musical pieces and dance by each participating school, helping to position the culture internationally. The schools and students participate in an innovative recreational, artistic and cultural project, promoting a healthy and competitive environment among them.
Each year, the event receives at least some 9,000 people to see up to 3,000 dancers from various areas of the city and the country. The Maputo Carnival is in constant competition with one of its siblings, the Quelimane Carnival. The Quelimane Carnival bills itself as the capital of carnival in Africa, which attracts thousands of people every year to the events it holds.
Maputo Carnival is held during the conventional carnival dates, between the month of February and March.
This carnival is also known as the Takoradi Street Carnival or simply as Ankos Festival. The celebration is held in the city of Sekondi-Takoradi. The carnivals are held near the Takoradi Market in the town of Amanful, northwestern Ghana. The Carnival came about thanks to the movement known as “The Year of Return“. This movement has the purpose of congregating again the African diaspora to their country of origin, in this case Ghana. However, it also serves the purpose of serving as a vehicle for the economic, cultural and tourist growth of the city and the country.
The festival is primarily a celebration of the country’s traditional music and dancing. Several people congregate in groups to parade along Takoradi Street performing various cultural manifestations. In addition, all the groups wear colorful costumes that represent the culture of their country. The event is also a space for recreation and fun, as people also wear masks with exaggerated gestures.
The dancing and music are the main components of the whole event, which, with the hundreds of colorful costumes, general a real visual spectacle for the people watching the whole event in the streets and window of the buildings. The Takoradi Street Carnival is a cultural event that integrates the different elements and identity traits of the country. Thousands of people congregate in the street, generating a large concentration of people who eagerly await the groups.
The Carnival or Takoradi Festival is held in December, specifically from the 24th to 26th of that month.
The Harare International Carnival is a major celebration that occurs in the capital of Zimbabwe, a country in the south of the African continent, between Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia and South Africa. The Carnival has been present in the country’s capital since 2013, which was a project undertaken by the vice president at the time, Joice Mujuro. The carnivals were held with the aim of serving as a kind of escape valve that would allow Zimbabweans to forget routine problems, both economic and social.
In its beginnings, the carnival had only 10,000 people; however, the institutions point out that the growth has been exponential, receiving up to 1.5 million people in recent years. The carnival is known as the largest in the country, making it one of the most important tourist attractions in Zimbabwe.
In addition, the carnival integrates different cultural events such as dances, parades, live music concerts, as well as stand up comedy events and performances and parades. Likewise, the event functions as an instrument of cultural union and promotion of culture and the arts. Through events and activities, the city promotes fraternal ties, both for residents and tourists who come every year to celebrate the carnival.
The carnivals count on the participation of both private and public companies located in the national territory. In addition, each year it warmly welcomes various artists who wish to participate in the event, encouraging tourist activity and the mobilization of thousands of people each year. The event has had more than 23 international artists from Africa, Europe, Asia and South America.
The Harare International Carnivals in Zimbabwe are events held in mid-years, between July and October.
Cape Town is the capital of South Africa, a country located at the southern tip of the entire African continent. The carnival festivities in the South African capital are quite recent, as it had its first edition in 2010. The project began as a tool for the cultural and historical development of the country and the region. Because of this, the carnival has received up to 51,000 people from all over the continent and the world.
The event is celebrated with the rich culture that is present throughout the country and adjacent nations. It is an incredible cultural event in which people express their traditions through dancing, music and dress. The event is a true visual and musical spectacle, promoting art, poetry and traditional dances.
The whole event offers different activities for everyone to enjoy the festivities. Among the predominant events are parades, light shows, traditional music, live concerts, dozens of traditional dances by the different groups and theatrical presentations. The carnivals are the product of a great effort that takes months in their collaboration and integrates the different sectors of society.
With the help of the different cultural groups, the carnival has positioned itself as one of the biggest and most important events in the capital city. Thousands of people come every year to be part of the different cultural, theatrical and musical manifestations that take place in the streets of the city.
The Cape Town Carnival takes place during the traditional carnival of the carnival festivities, between the months of February and March.
The city of Quelimane, located in the east of the central region of Mozambique, southeast of the African continent. The Carnival in Quelimane began to take to the streets from 1990, when it ceased to be an event in private premises to be a large community celebration that included all sectors of the city. The carnival is one of the small prides of the country, recognized in the region as the “Little Brazil“.
The Quelimane Carnival is one of the largest events of its kind in the country. In addition, it is an event that sets standards in the rest of the continent’s celebrations. Every year, the streets are completely filled with people from all parts of the city, the country and the continent to celebrate in style. The event is a complete cultural spectacle, expressed through music and dancing.
The carnivals are the living representation of the European festivities linked with the cultural aspects and identitary characters of the African culture. Thousands of people take to the streets with costumes and colorful costumes to represent different characters. Warriors, demons, animals, traditional costumes and colorful designs are the most common patterns, although any fun and colorful costume is also welcome. In addition, more than 25 dance groups and bands perform shows so that the diverse spectators have the best carnivals of their lives.
Currently, the Quelimane carnival receives more than 50,000 people every year. These people come from all over the country due to the great cultural importance of the event and the sheer proportion of the event. However, tourists from Brazil, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Portugal, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States also participate.
The Quelimane Carnival is held within the traditional carnival dates, between the month of February and the month of March.
The Isle of Mahé, the largest island of the Republic of the Seychelles, located in the Indian Sea is the birthplace of the Victorian International Carnival. This carnival is relatively new and its purpose is to celebrate different cultural contexts. Because the islands had no indigenous population, the current gentilicio is the result of various populations from around the world. The current population consists of French, African, Chinese and Hindu migrants.
Carnival celebrates the wide variety of ethnicities and cultures that have settled on the islands. The event is one of the most varied celebrations in terms of nationalities, ethnicities and culture, all agglomerated in the most impressive event in the whole country. The celebration integrates different events such as musical shows, dance performances, opening ceremonies, street parades with costumes, floats and musical performances and of course, the closing event, which is full of various activities. The carnival has quickly positioned itself as one of the outstanding festivals throughout the continent.
This very special carnival warmly welcomes the entire population no matter where they come from, adults and children alike. The events are for all the public, incorporating fun events for the youngest to the adults. In addition, the carnival also includes the participation of cultural groups from various areas of the world, further emphasizing the multicultural conglomerate of the island.
The Seychelles Carnival is known as “The Carnival of Carnivals” due to its wide variety of cultural groupings from all over the world. The festival is truly a complete visual spectacle that integrates the diverse communities and social sectors from all over the country. The entire event covers a total of 3 days of celebration, taking place during the month of February.
The Mindelo Carnival takes place São Vicente, the second most populous island of Cape Verde, an archipelago of volcanic origin in the Atlantic Ocean. The carnival tradition on the island has been present since the 18th century with the arrival of Portuguese settlers. Mindelo Carnival is an incredible mix of typical African traditions with the elements of European carnival festivities.
The Mindelo Carnival is one of the biggest and most important celebrations for Caboverdians. The events still preserve the most traditional elements of the festivities, in which there are a large number of parades, carrozas allegorical, colorful costumes, dances, music and various rituals typical of the country. The Mindelo Carnival is probably one of the most important and largest events of this event in the entire continent.
Although carnivals feature a host of festive elements, the celebrations that steal all attention are the dance competitions. Dozens of groups fight tirelessly through cultural demonstrations, dresses, dances and music to be recognized as the best group. The groups work for months to perfect all the dance steps and design the costumes for the special occasion.
The event also contemplates several minor activities occurring in the different streets, plazas and local private venues of the island. In this way, the carnival becomes an extremely varied, colorful, exotic and fun party. In addition, food, art and crafts can never be missing, as people set up small stalls where you can find everything from food and art..
The Mindelo Carnival follows a calendar of traditional festivities, taking place 40 days before Christian Lent.
Carnival is celebrated in Bijagós, a set of 88 islands and islets in Guinea-Bissau, a small country in the eastern region of the African continent. Carnival came to the population due to the Portuguese colonists, who imposed their Catholic traditions and beliefs. After the independence of Guinea-Bissau, the carnival began to celebrate the festivities with a more own feeling, prioritizing its identity roots and leaving a little aside the traditional European celebrations.
The carnivals in Bijagós are the main celebration throughout the country. The event consists of an incredible mix of African and Portuguese traditions and is held in the most important regions and towns throughout the archipelago. At the festivities, hundreds of people wear masks of various themes that resemble the local fauna. In addition, they also wear typical costumes and perform various cultural manifestations, the vast majority of these reflecting the animal life of the area.
The groups congregate to perform a great repertoire of music and dances in front of a large number of spectators. The live music, performed mainly with drums, is what envelops and gives life to all the presentations. The Carnival has become one of the most important cultural events and traditions of the archipelago and of the entire country.
Carnival in Bijagós follows the traditional carnival carnival, which indicates the celebration of the carnival 40 days before Easter, taking place before the Christian Lent. Generally, the carnival in Bijagós takes place during the months of February and March.
Carnivals take place the Capital of Angola, in southwest Africa. Carnival arrived in the country through Portuguese settlers. From its beginnings, carnival had always been a vehicle for mocking the country’s authorities. People used to wear masks and disguises as a way of satirizing public figures, especially politicians. After the withdrawal of troops from South Africa in the late 1970s, the carnival began to be called “Victory Carnival” to commemorate the event.
Although carnivals are held in all the streets, avenues and localities of the country, the epicenter of the most important festivities is in the city of Luanda. Carnival is an incredible spectacle of colorful costumes, food and parades. Every year a large number of events are held that include children, youth and adults. In addition, the different activities take over various areas of the city, so you can find celebrations both in the city and on the beach.
Likewise, the Luanda Carnival includes characteristic elements of the Brazilian carnival; however, the national characteristics of the country prevail much more strongly. There are more than 14 groups that actively participate in the parades and carnival events, all competing for a main prize. The streets of the city are decorated in black, yellow and red, colors characteristic of the flag Angolan flag.
The carnivals are held in an atmosphere of competition, but also of brotherhood and celebration of their traditions and identity characteristics. The event takes place on the traditional carnival dates, before Christian Lent. Generally, the Luanda Carnival takes place from Thursday to Shrove Tuesday.
The city of Calabar in Cross River State in southern Nigeria is the epicenter of the most extensive carnival in all of Africa. The event runs for a full month, spanning the entire month of December through the end of the year. The celebrations began to take place in 2004, thanks to a project by former governor Donald Duke. The Calabar Carnival has a clear objective: develop and preserve the city as a tourist destination through the various cultural events.
The former governor implemented this project to develop the different local economic activities, one of them being lodging. One of the initiatives of the project was to promote the friendly spirit of the villagers to be recognized by visitors from all over Africa. For a whole month, Calabar has no rest, as it occupies a full month of activities of different genres.
Each week of the festivities is known as a particular name: Millennium Week, Sports Festival, TINAPA Family Fun Festival and Carnival Week. During these 4 weeks there are a large number of events, including symposiums, sports activities, Christmas fairs, events for children, motorcycle races and Carnival parades. The whole city is decorated with various Christmas motifs to welcome this incredible celebration.
In addition, the Carnival of Calabar features a variety of groupings, both national and international. The event has had the privilege of receiving groups from Thailand, Mexico South Africa, Brazil, Greece, Kenya, Ghana, Colombia, Senegal and many other groups that perform various cultural acts.
Today, the Carnival is known as the “Biggest street party in Africa“. The Calabar takes place every year from the first day of the month of December until the end of the year.
The Calabar Carnival will be held from December 1 to 31.