Carnival is a term broadly referring to a specific kind of public event and entertainment.
See also the entry on Festival
- 1 Origins and history
- 2 The nature and form of Carnival
- 3 Carnival-like or carnival-style
- 4 Bakhtin and the idea of the carnivalesque
- 5 Student carnivals
- 6 A partial list of carnivals and carnival-like events in South Africa
- 7 Carnival and Karnaval as titles for plays, songs, etc.
- 8 Sources
- 9 Return to
Origins and history
The event has its roots in a traditional Christian celebration which marks the beginning of Lent, the period of 40 days before Easter during which no meat is eaten. The word is thus derived from the Latin phrase "carnem levare" (to remove/set aside the meat).
The term became in turn carnevale in Italian, carnival in English, carnaval in Dutch, karnaval in Afrikaans, karneval in some instances in German, etc.). (Also referred to as Mardi Gras in many instances). Most often associated with Christian festivities, notably Lent, though in some cases more broadly used to refer to other kinds street processionals and celebratory events, unrelated to religious celebrations or rituals.
The nature and form of Carnival
Sometimes events are termed carnivals, simply because they display features associated with carnivals proper, for example street parades, exhuberant costuming, music and dance, face-painting , a celebratory atmosphere, and so on. In other cases one may find expressions such as carnival-like or carnival-style being used to describe the event and to indicate this.
Bakhtin and the idea of the carnivalesque
A term created by Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975) in works such as Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics (1929) and Rabelais and His World (1965), where he points out that in the carnivals of popular culture, social hierarchies of everyday life are profaned and overturned: fools become wise, kings become beggars, while opposites are mingled (for example fact and fantasy, heaven and hell). Most importantly, there are no hierarchical positions during carnival, ideologies that routinely inhabit people's lives, simply do not exist for the duration of the carnival.
This notion of an inverted or even egalitarian order, is immensely important in any discussion of something like the Mardi Gras in New Orleans (see August Staub, 1992, for example) and the Coon Carnival in 19th and 20th century Cape Town (see ***., 1999 for example).
A special form of such activity is the annual festival or parade staged for charity by students at tertiary institutions in many countries. More commonly known as a Rag in English (referring to a programme of stunts, parades, and other entertainments organized by students to raise money for charity during "rag week", deriving from the notion of a "rag" as a boisterous prank or practical joke), and a Jool in Afrikaans ("Jool" is related to the word "jolyt", derived from the Dutch word "jool", first found in the meaning of "a festival" or "jollification" in 1852.)
However, some of these events have been dubbed a carnival or a karnaval (in Afrikaans) and immaterial of the term used, in form these events all display strong carnivalesque qualities, or at the very least are carnival-like in form. There are a few such instances in South Africa (see the listing below).
A partial list of carnivals and carnival-like events in South Africa
For more on the individual events listed here, click on the appropriate name to go to the entry in question.
Cape Town Carnival (Annually in March, Cape Town, since 2012)
The Color Run (Annually in various cities)
Deuriemikke Karnaval (Annually in August/September, Pretoria)
Donkey Carnival (Annually at Albany Field, Grahamstown in December).
Durban Cultural Carnival (Annually in October, Durban)
Lof en Dank Karnaval (Bloemfontein, 2019)
eMzantsi Carnival (annually in December, Fish Hoek)
NG Kerk Hospitaalpark Karnaval (Bloemfontein, September 2018).
REDD'S Street Carnival. (Port Elizabeth)
Siyagiya Durban International Music and Cultural Carnival (December in Durban - 2012 and 2013)
Uitenhage Street Carnival (Annually in November, Uitenhage)
The terms carnival and karnaval appear as titles for quite a few plays, cabarets and performance pieces, South African examples include such productions as Karnaval by Pieter-Dirk Uys (1975); Carnival à la District Six by David Bestman and Taliep Petersen (1980); Carnival Sideshow and Other Magical Things by Brendon Peel and Li Lau (2018).
The lyrics of an Afrikaans song called "Karnaval In Bloemfontein" by Afrikaans singer and film actress Carike Kreuzenkamp, actually describes a festive parade and masquerade in the city, possibly the annual university Jool in the streets of the city.
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