Minister to set the ball rolling for 2013 carnival


A scene from this year’s carnival

Seychelles re-entered the world of carnivals in 2011 after President James Michel, who then held the portfolio for tourism, launched the Seychelles Brand of Tourism and called for more than just sun, sea and sand as sales pitch for the islands.

It was at this same time that the President invited Seychelles to claim back its industry that remained the pillar of the island’s economy.

Seychelles’ credentials for holding carnivals stretch back some forty years when the then Chief Minister of Seychelles, Sir James Mancham, organised the islands’ first carnival at which the guest of honour was Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret and her husband, Anthony Armstrong-Jones.

This particular carnival was also designed to bring the Seychelles Islands to the attention of the world following the opening of Seychelles’ International Airport on July 4, 1971, when the first BOAC VC10 aircraft landed to officially launch Seychelles as a tourism destination. The carnival was followed by another in 1976 and formed part of the Independence celebrations of June 29, 1976 when the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, representing Her Majesty the Queen, joined the then President Mancham and Prime Minister Albert René as guests of honour.

Seychelles, then, is hardly new to the world of carnival, whose mantle it again took up in 2011 with the first edition of what has become known as the ‘Carnival of Carnivals’, this on account of how it welcomes representatives from some of the world’s most famous carnival nations: Brazil, Notting Hill, Dusseldorf and Trinidad & Tobago, among others, as part of its spectacular carnival procession parading alongside cultural groups from the Community of Nations who are happy and not ashamed to showcase they respective culture and their people as they proudly fly their country’s flag for the world at large to see.

Another name for the Carnaval International de Victoria is the ‘melting pot of cultures’ and this, where Seychelles is concerned, is particularly apt because of the islands’ ethnic composition, weaving exotic strands from the world over into a tightly-knit society in which harmony remains a way of life. It is on account of this rare and beautiful homogeny that some even go as far as to claim that ‘what Seychelles is today, the world will be tomorrow’, for there can be few better examples of people of different ethnicity living peacefully together as one, than in Seychelles.

It is with these credentials that Seychelles re-entered the world of carnival in 2011, bringing a spectacle to the normally sleepy streets of the nation which, by some estimates, pulled one third of the population into the capital over three days of carnival extravaganza, live entertainment, international food stalls and an electric atmosphere which, arguably, the capital had never before witnessed in its entire history.

In the audience, a coterie of foreign dignitaries joined the President of the Republic and members of government to listen to music legend and United Nations Food & Agriculture representative Dionne Warwick as she argued passionately on behalf of the planet’s poor.

The second carnival this year drew the largest cohort of foreign press ever to come to Seychelles and witnessed live entertainment and cultural manifestations from both local and international groups such as guest artists Micheal Quinn and the Bourbon Kings of the United States, Francois Dal’s from La Réunion and Lima Calbio of Trinidad and Tobago. High on the entertainment agenda was the 2012 carnival theme song – ‘Sa Karnaval’- performed by Jean-Marc Volcy and supporting local musicians. In a show of support for the carnival, Talib Rifai, secretary general of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation made an appearance as did BBC’s famous anchor Aaron Heselhurst.

The 2012 Carnaval International de Victoria attracted over 30 international groups and countries such as the UK Notting Hill Carnival, Indonesia, China, Zimbabwe, La Reunion, Dusseldorf, South Africa, the USA, India and Italy and set the tone for the third edition which is due to burst onto the Victoria scene in February 2013.

‘With its innate spontaneity, great natural beauty and wonderful racial mix, Seychelles is a natural home for a carnival,’ enthuses Elsia Grandcourt, chief executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board whose Celebrate Seychelles Events Team is responsible for organising the annual carnival.

“We may only be small in terms of size and influence but it is heartening to see how our carnival has captured the imagination of a world so lacking in harmony and camaraderie and how it has inspired people to believe in friendship and collaboration,” she says.

Already several countries have confirmed their presence at next year’s carnival: Notting Hill, South Africa, Brazil, La Reunion, Zimbabwe, Italy, Emirates, South Korea, Indonesia, Trinidad & Tobago and India, among many others.

The format will be similar to that of previous editions, with an official launch followed by live music shows by foreign and local artists and other forms of entertainment, all complemented by international food stalls featuring cuisines from across the world. Once again, members of the foreign press and media organisations are expected to be present in force to bring the Seychelles carnival to the world.

The second day will feature the carnival procession with representatives from the world’s most renowned carnivals, local floats from Seychelles and contingents from foreign navies whose presence in port will be timed to coincide with the carnival.

After the floats there will be further live entertainment as the carnival atmosphere picks up tempo. The carnival will finish with a family fun day and an opportunity for everyone to descend on the capital to celebrate in true carnival - and Seychelles – spirit, which after 40 years of carnival, is alive and well.