A long queue greeted the bleary-eyed passengers at the departure hall of the domestic wing of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja. The queue seemed endless and the wait for clearance for flight to Calabar was that of ‘Godot’.
Somehow, a few passengers rose from the ‘graveyard’ to take off the heat in the waiting lounge with acrobatic displays. The hall soon came back to life with the fleeting moment of theatrics.
As soon as the whole environment became sublimated with a ‘convoluting concourse of variegated actions’, an airport security officer stopped the show and everywhere became strangely calm.
Unsurprisingly, this bunch triumphs over the machinations of the nasty officer: a comic script, so to say, but the 2017 International Carnival was a narrative, whose comic tapestry climaxed in three days different altars of performance — Lagos, Uyo and Calabar.
The weather fittingly provided snarky remarks and jokes, as the artistes scraped a denouement by any means possible.The plot turned on whether or not it was improvisational. And as the venerable writer, William Shakespeare aptly tagged it, ‘all’s well that ends well’ such that if a genie had sprung and offered to grant one wish, impulsively the answer would have been more performances.
Since the Cross River Carnival Commission introduced the International Carnival Day, it has been lapped by wave after wave of big performances by foreign artistes.
So, the prospect of the event promising another weary night set the heart racing. The almost six-hour performances defied any dour expectation.
Performers from across the globe thrilled the audience at the full capacity Margaret Ekpo International Stadium, with each unique performance exciting the boisterous crowd in different ways.
The excitement became enervated on Friday night through Saturday morning as bands from different countries took centre stage.
There were cultural dances from Ukraine, Mexico and Ethiopia, acrobats from Senegal, Croatia and Kenya, as well as flag twirlers from Italy.
The Croats were wonderful in their costumes, but more importantly, showed knowledge of circuit performance and stilt dancing.
France was also represented by a colourful dance troupe while Lithuania stole the show at a point, with two fire performers wowing the audience with their fearless display with flames and fireworks.
Numerous African countries were represented through ensembles who brought a lot of traditional dances under the lights of the stadium to entertain as well as educate on each country’s history.
The Ethiopian troupe explored the country’s dance history, with the upper body being the most used.
Tanzania, Kenya and Swaziland and South Africa, with two different sets of performers, performed. The South Africans displayed energetic Zulu war dances.
The chest-baring and solid voices provided a nifty bit of wonder for the magic carpet, which appeared to float softly around the action without benefit of stage.
Still, this isn’t the most impressive feat of trickery on display in the international carnival.
The Ghanaians were especially engaging, with a combination of female dancers and drummers, and male acrobats and magicians.
That would be Ghana’s inexhaustible determination to a trademark slant on the musical formula.
Obviously, the production’s relentless razzle-dazzle and its anything-for-a-laugh spirit also infuse the show with a winking suggestion: If you can’t be yourself, just be fabulous.
The team from the US supported by representation from neighbouring Caribbean nations like Belize, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St Kitts and Nevis and others.
While it mostly sticks to the formulaic pattern of the event, it also joshed the somewhat exhausted conventions with a breezy dance that looks like dancehall. However, the almost 15-minute piece adroitly, but not exhaustively, exploited opportunities to indulge revellers.
The affinity between Calabar and Brazil was again on display as a masterfully costumed Brazilian band kept the audience on the edge of their seats with a combination of music, dance and acting.
Despite the fact that Brazil’s representation came from the city of Rio de Janeiro, they still kept the audience engrossed and ended up winners of the competition with 790 points.
This partially due to a brilliant enactment of Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines dance, acrobatics and music, developed mainly by African slaves in the 16th century.
South Africa were second with 757 points while Ghana came third with 742.
The International Carnival as the climax of a series of activities that attracted more than a million revellers over the previous few days in what the Carnival Comission described as an unprecedented shutdown of the city.
The 2017 event owes an inspirational debt to Governor Ben Ayade’s cumulative portraits of the culturally rich state. In the affecting narrative of Migration, there’s attempt to pontificate continental with ravages and also its consolations.
Speaking on the theme, Ayade said Africa is the future and encouraged the youth to “put an end to migration, and should rather come to Calabar as we have provisions for jobs and have created opportunities as politicians and people in government, for you to have good jobs so that you can stay back here.”
The theme of the 2017 Calabar Carnival was “Migration,’’ which Governor Ayade said was to end illegal migration by creating awareness on the dangers of engaging in such act through difficult routes.
His words: “Today in Calabar, we have people from the United States, Germany, Mexico, Sweden and others celebrating with us in this carnival; we want to tell them that Africa is so rich.
Governor Ayade stated that the carnival’s theme – Migration’ was timely at a time African youths were seeking greener pastures outside the continent “Sometimes we begin to wonder why we have young Africans going through Morocco, Mediterranean Sea, Sahara desert and all the difficult routes to find themselves in Libya and being used as slaves and as sub-human beings.
“Today, we are here to tell a story in form of a drama and procession, a story of migration, the problem of Africa. Colourful display at the 2017 Calabar Carnival
“Our young men and women take risk through perilous roads finding themselves in Europe and America in search of greener pasture.
“Today’s carnival is to tell the world that Africa is the richest continent. Africa is blessed, we have everything; and we have no reason, as a young man or woman struggling, to leave African continent. Breathtaking costumes were on display at the 2017 Calabar Carnival “We are telling this story of pain, melancholy and frustration that indeed, the best place you can be is Africa.’
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