Carnivals around the world are assuming global brand status while carnival owners and promoters are doing everything to position their kind of carnivals in that light.
In Nigeria, Rivers State has the credit of organising the first carnival in 1998. But the carnival was rested for a period of time until the administration of Governor Rotimi Amaechi revived it in 2008. Known as ‘The Port Harcourt Carnival’ or popularly called ‘CARNIRIV,’ the state government also initiated a five-year development plan that has strengthened the sustainability of CARNIRIV as well as its positioning as ‘‘a reckon-able and recognisable global brand.’’
Thus, the planning of the 2013 edition of the carnival that held from Sunday, December 15 to Saturday, December 21, had all the trappings of a tourism event that had universal appeal in terms of content, delivery and participation. The Rivers State Tourism Development Agency (RSTDA), which has the mandate to organise CARNIRIV, ensured that the carnival lived up to its international acclaim with performances by notable international acts including the Grammy Awards winner, Steel Pulse from the United Kingdom. A contingent from Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) also brought style and elegance from the Caribbean, while from within Nigeria a 70-man durbar team came all the way from Suleja, Niger State, to add colour to the Garden City fiesta.
Unlike the past editions, the stake was raised higher on Friday, December 20, when the durbar team took the city by storm during the International Heritage Parade. Residents of the state and tourists alike, for the first time, witnessed the popular durbar perform live on the streets of Port Harcourt. Elegantly dressed men in traditional colourful native babariga and turban, who mounted beautifully decorated horses, were a cynosure of all eyes. The long flute and amazing dance steps of the beautiful beasts were unforgettable delight to fun seekers.
The stunning presence of the ladies from Trinidad and Tobago and their traditional steel pans mixed with their steel orchestra, during the Garden City Freestyle Parade on Saturday, December 21, in fact threw the revellers into frenzy. Widely acknowledged as a reference point in tourism and carnival, members of the T&T contingent were outstanding in their costume, dance steps and style, offering excited locals and other attendees several opportunities of snap shots on mobile devices such as telephone sets, iPad and digital cameras.
History of CarniRiv
By all means, Carniriv ’88 is the direct ancestor of Carniriv: The Port Harcourt Carnival. From 1988, through to 2008, the idea of staging a carnival with statewide participation morphed in a number of forms- most notably in the form of Rivifest – until the emergence of the current carnival. Carniriv: The Port Harcourt Carnival was construed and staged in 2008; and with it came the poignant allure to build a sturdy and ultimately attractive carnival brand.
Rivers State is known as the land of a thousand masquerades. With a fine variety of spoken tongues, numbering over 300, it is somewhat easy to discern the beauty in the diversity of its peoples. Very many civilizations, ancient and seemingly ageless as they are, quite simply draw attention to the richness and unspeakable eminence of the collective heritage of the Rivers people. Simply put, we are the microcosm of the macrocosm, a Nigeria (with all of its cultural and ethnic diversity) within Nigeria. This, to all intents and purposes, is at the core of the philosophy and guiding principle of Carniriv: The Port Harcourt Carnival.
Garden City Freestyle Parade
The carnival here enters its final day, and the hype and excitement portend to a crescendo. Glamour, style and pageantry all fuse into one fine artistic blend in a contemporary modern cultural procession through the streets of Port Harcourt. Traditionally, 6 bands participate in this procession; with 5 bands (namely: Jubilee, Liberation, Dynamic, Fusion and Treasure Bands) all wrapped-up in fervent competition.
International Heritage Parade
In true carnival style, contingents of the 23 LGAs engage a procession (on a pre-defined route) through the streets of Port Harcourt- showcasing enthralling dances and masquerade displays as they do so. All of these performances are embedded in colourful floats gigged with impressive icons. This year, the Heritage parade goes international with the inclusion of troupes from Malaysia and South Africa as honorary participants.
This Carnival is a strong reflection of the importance attached to children in Carniriv, and by extension Tourism Development, in Rivers State.
The Children’s Carnival is designed as a mini-procession, commencing at the Elekahia play-ground and culminating in the Liberation Stadium (Elekahia) – where children will be treated to a carnival full of fun, refreshment, leisure and unrestrained entertainment befitting of an ice-breaker event in anticipation of the Grand opening of Carniriv 2012.
What makes the carnival unique?
One of the unique features of the carnival is that each year, we launch it with a predominant theme. For instance, the 2013 edition was themed, “The Green World Edition,” in consonance with the universal crusade to go green. As expected, throughout the duration of the 2013 edition, we promoted everything organic, respect for nature and sustenance of the environment in the quest to improve our general wellness and the quality of life. This year, the Carnival is themed, “One Love, One People,” for reasons that are self-evident: our country and indeed the global community has embraced globalisation – the breaking down of barriers, the closing of ranks between people of diverse colours, creed, culture, political leaning, race, etc. Our theme is well thought out because it denoted the unity of our people, diverse as we are in creed, and culture and faith and opinion – we celebrate our oneness as people of the greatest city in Nigeria – calm, peaceful, fun filled and original.
In addition to its entertainment value what other offerings should people expect from the carnival?
One major trust of the carnival is empowerment. Every year, we attract different musicians, performers and entertainers who are given rare opportunities to connect with their fan base, develop their talent and ride on the carnival platform to market them to local and international audiences.
At the Rivers State Tourism Development Agency (RSTDA), we have a deliberate policy to line up our local talents to perform on the same stage and to the same audience with their international counterparts. For instance, last year, about 60 local talents shared the centre stage with global chart toppers. This potentially translates into more revenue for them in the mid and long term. Again, all carnival costumes are made by local designers and costumiers based in Port Harcourt and membership of the bands is free. We give out cash awards and other prizes to participants to encourage them to grow. For instance, the 2013 designer is currently undergoing a capacity building training in South Africa. Evidently, the carnival serves in mobilising the people to share ideals, celebrate what is common between us, bond and connect with one another.
From a commercial perspective, SMEs and other businesses profit every year from the increased human traffic and patronage from the huge crowd that pours into Port Harcourt during the one week show. Let’s not forget that tourism is also boosted for the state before, during and after the carnival as hotels, recreational centres, tourist sites, arts, culture, advertising, publishing and creative companies, plus food and beverage companies etc all profit from the increase in human and vehicular traffic during the period of the carnival. Hundreds of direct and indirect employments and sustenance is created along the value chain through the carnival as millions of naira exchanges hands every day.
What are the major highlights of the carnival? What is unique about it and why do you think it will be a success?
Let’s start with the kids. The Kids Carnival has proven to be a huge favourite not only for the kids but also for the parents and adults alike who seize rare moments to connect and bond with the younger generation. Praise Jam, with an estimated turn out of thousands of people is a veritable opportunity for corporate bodies to connect with their fan base and customers. Dance of Fireflies which pulls in thousands of fans every year is set in the natural ambience of the old moonlight tales and has a huge followership. If you have not seen Ekere – the Rhythm of the tribes, then you need to be in Port Harcourt this year to experience it. For those who like to see real men take on each other in an undiluted gladiatory show of masculine prowess, Egelege – Champion of the Sand Arena is highly recommended.
Most lovers of undiluted musical entertainment affirm that Hosh Jam has proven to be the best of its kind within and outside the shores of our country while the International Aquatic Fiesta is a showcase of our rich aquatic splendour and everything that makes life at the river side a wonderful experience.
The Black African Musical Festival is one which evokes feeling from the inner crucibles of the hearts of all of us. Closely allied to it is the Reggae 360 which is the ultimate centre stage for reggae musicians with potentials to take you on a-360-degree odyssey into the spiritually uplifting world of music as popularised by the ‘Rastafarians’. The International Heritage Parade is an all-comers’ affair for those who relish the enduring memories that the parade presents every year while the Garden City Free Style Parade is unique for its long retinue of cultural and artistic human traffic snaking through the major streets of Port Harcourt to rhythmic music and different dance steps.