Carnival is a term broadly referring to a specific kind of public event and entertainment.
- 1 The term Carnival
- 2 Origins and history
- 3 The nature and form of Carnival
- 4 Carnival as a theatrical event
- 5 Carnival-like or carnival-style
- 6 Bakhtin and the idea of the carnivalesque
- 7 Student carnivals
- 8 Travelling and permanent carnivals, fun fairs, etc.
- 9 A partial list of carnivals and carnival-like events in South Africa
- 10 "Carnival" and "Karnaval" as titles for plays, songs, venues, etc.
- 11 Sources
- 12 Return to
The term Carnival
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 name is thus believed to be derived from the Latin phrases "carnem levare" (to "lift/remove/set aside the meat"), or (more likely) from "carne vale" ("farewell to flesh").
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 ("Fat Tuesday") in many instances).
Although most often associated with Christian festivities, notably Lent, in some cases carnival is used more broadly to refer to other kinds street processionals, parades and celebratory events, unrelated to religious celebrations or rituals (e.g. student parades or carnivals at various tertiary institutions). Also, in a vaguely related sense, the word is used in a number of other senses, e.g. to indicate a flamboyant or riotous radiancy or variety (a "carnival of colours", a "carnival atmosphere"), in the sense of a fun fair (a "travelling carnival") or an entertainment - or even shopping - centre (such as "Carnival City" in Gauteng).
Origins and history
The nature and form of Carnival
Carnival as a theatrical event
Sometimes events (a festival, a show, a fair, a bazaar, etc) 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).
Travelling and permanent carnivals, fun fairs, etc.
A partial list of carnivals and carnival-like events in South Africa
Carnival is often seen in the same category of entertainment as the playland or fairground and the circus, while there have also been numerous festive events in South Africa using the name "carnival" as part of their titles. While there are a few classic carnivals in the list (the Coon Carnival of course being the prime example), in strict terms not all those listed are true carnival-style events. Many employ the word in its broadest sense now, with no specific reference to form or function, but merely to signpost some kind of entertainment or celebratory element in the particular event. The term is thus often used interchangeably with the terms parade, "festival", celebration, fête, bazaar, etc., because the events referred to include games, competitions, concerts, or simply popular entertainment. This broad usage has become increasingly popular in the late 20th century, and escalated even more in the early 21st century.
For more on the individual events listed here, click on the appropriate name to go to the entry in question.
Buffalo City Summer Carnival (Eastern Cape)
Cape Minstrel Carnival (annually on 2 January, Cape Town) - also known as the Cape Carnival, Cape Town Minstrel Parade, the Kaapse Klopse or (historically in English) the Coon Carnival or Cape Coon Carnival.
Cape Town Carnival (Annually in March, Cape Town, since 2012)
Cascades Carnival (Pietermaritzburg, 2018)
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)
East Rand Spring Festival (Annually in September, since 2017)
First Margate Scouts Carnival (Margate, South Coast of Natal)
Johannesburg Carnival (Annually 31 December-1 January, Johannesburg)
Lekkerland Carnival (Annually in March, Dullstroom)
Lof en Dank Karnaval (Bloemfontein, 2019)
Mossel Bay Carnival (Annually in September, Mossel Bay)
eMzantsi Carnival (annually in December, Fish Hoek)
NG Kerk Hospitaalpark Karnaval (Bloemfontein, September 2018).
Pink Loerie Mardi Gras and Arts Festival (annually during May, in Knysna)
REDD'S Street Carnival. (Port Elizabeth)
Scottburgh Easter Carnival (Scottburgh Beach, March/April)
Siyagiya Durban International Music and Cultural Carnival (December in Durban - 2012 and 2013)
South Coast Carnival (St Michael’s on Sea)
Spring Carnaval/Lente Karnaval (Roodepoort)
Spring Family Day Carnival, (Polekwane, 2016 and 2017)
Uitenhage Street Carnival (Annually in November, Uitenhage)
US Karnaval (Stellenbosch)
Warm-Winter Karnaval (South Coast , Natal)
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).
Poems and collections of poems using Karnaval or Carnival include the poems Die Karnaval by I.D. du Plessis (19**), Die karnaval van vreugde by Gert Strydom (2010) and a collection of Afrikaans poetry called Karnaval en Lent by T.T. Cloete (2014).
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.
On the East Rand in Gauteng, there is a venue called Carnival City, a casino, hotel and entertainment complex run by Sun International. The complex contains three performance venues, namely Big Top Arena, Mardi Gras Theatre and Bru’s Bar.
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