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Angolans celebrate annual carnival despite financial crisis
March 27, 2017, 12:43 pm

The annual Angolan Carnival is an eagerly awaited event that draws in nation-wide participation and attracts thousands of tourists to witness the floats and semba dances.

The carnival, which has been celebrated since mid-19th century when Angola was still a Portuguese colony, is an opportunity for Angolans to showcase the country’s unique culture and identity, as well as their creativity in art, music and dance.

In fact, the Samba dance and the famous Carnival in Brazil can be traced back to the tens of thousands of Africans who were captured from the region by Portuguese colonists and taken as slaves to Brazil and other countries in the Caribbean and South America between 1600 and 1888. The word ‘semba’ comes from the Quimbundo language and can mean to pray or invoke the spirits of ancestors or local Gods.

Every year, in the three days leading up to Ash Wednesday — which marks the beginning of Lent, the forty-day period of Christian religious observance leading to Easter Sunday — a huge carnival is held in Angola’s capital Luanda and other cities around the country. Groups of dancers donning colorful costumes and headgear perform dances such as the samba, with prizes being awarded for the best costumes and dancers.

Carnival groups normally include a king and queen, dancers, musicians and sometimes a nurse dressed in white as a symbol of purity. Everyone else is in colorful costumes and headgear, often in the national colors of red, yellow and black.

In the past, the carnival performance was held simultaneously in various parts of the country, but recent years, the event has been centralized around the capital, Luanda.

This year’s Angolan carnival witnessed the participation of 14 groups.  “In my point of view the most important thing is to try to motivate the people, and we have to start to think about the future of the carnival. There are groups that already have very elderly people, so it is important to think about how this will be passed on to the younger generation,” said Antonio Custodio, a representative of one of the dance groups.

This year also saw a children’s parade as celebrations continued outside the public square with some children taking the procession to the beach. The event closed with an award ceremony that saw dance and music groups in various categories receive cash prizes of up to US$3000.

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