Curtain comes down on Harare International Carnival

Samba girls on stage at the Harare International Conference Centre

Samba girls on stage at the Harare International Conference Centre

Melissa Mpofu in Harare
After close to two weeks of non-stop partying in the capital, the curtain has come down on the Harare International Carnival with attention now shifting to the Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo.

The annual festival which kicked off on September 1 with a carnival bira in Domboshava ended early yesterday morning with a mega carnival concert that took place at Robert Mugabe Square (Civic Centre Grounds). While it is not clear how many people attended the party and if event organisers – the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) reached their target of three million people – one thing that is certain is that it was mission accomplished for the tourism body as the street procession and concert were oversubscribed.

The carnival street party that featured more than 100 groups who showcased their diverse cultures began on Saturday morning and initially, people stood along the streets and watched in awe as group by group marched while exhibiting their culture/act. As groups and performers like the Samba Queens and Jah Prayzah took to the streets, the crowd got uncontrollable as they joined in and escorted the troupes to the final destination – Civic Centre grounds. At the grounds, before being disbanded, the groups would stop and dance in front of VIP guests where a judging panel had been set up in order to then award the group with the best float.

The excitement did not end there because the Airforce of Zimbabwe who partnered the carnival this year won the hearts of many with their paratrooper drills and helicopters which they flaunted periodically. The helicopters would from time to time land at the grounds where people were gathered just to entertain those who had never seen the rotorcraft at close range. Security officials had a torrid time controlling the crowds each time the helicopter landed or took off as they wanted to be close as if they were the ones boarding it. When it took off, they would surprisingly run after it, adding to the excitement.

Thereafter at about 6PM, several artistes, local and foreign took to the stage to entertain the crowds who kept swelling with each hour at the free carnival concert. A fireworks display just after midnight also stole the limelight as it was spectacular, coupled with a world class stage that had been erected at the ground. One would have been forgiven for thinking they were at a dome in South Africa as the stage, lighting and security features at the venue were unmatched.

At 6AM yesterday, the ground was still packed with carnivalists showing no signs of fatigue as they clearly were enjoying every bit of the concert which was free of charge.

Before the street party and concert – the climax of the carnival – people had spent the better part of the week partying at block parties which were held along different streets across the city. Most of the action however began last Thursday when carnivalists were treated to a free party during the carnival reception at the HICC where most foreign participating groups performed including the famed Samba Queens, Werrason, Oliver Mtukudzi and Seh Calaz.

On Friday, people were further spoilt for choice as three events – Samba Night, Rhumba Night and Zimdancehall Night were held at different venues.

Though not free of charge, the shows were all successful as they attracted bumper crowds.

Though some were disappointed that Zodwa Wabantu, the South African entertainer cancelled her carnival appearance at the last hour, dancers like Bev tried by all means to fill the gap and justify why people needed to support local talent. Performing at the Samba Night held outside Private Lounge with the Brazilian Samba Queens who were rather underwhelming – Bev urged local promoters to support them saying the money used to pay Zodwa, whom she believes is not a good dancer like her – could be used to promote them instead.

Over and above, the carnival was a success though the ZTA may want to seriously consider trimming its duration from 10 days in order to make the event more effective. Also, they may want to take notes from choreographers of the Bulawayo Arts Awards in terms of coming up with effective local entertainment that can be showcased at such platforms.

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