South Africa


Cape Town’s streets to come alive over New Year as carnival and Malay choir festival return after enforced Covid absence

Cape Town’s streets to come alive over New Year as carnival and Malay choir festival return after enforced Covid absence
Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis with one of the more than 50 troupes that is going to compete in the Tweede Nuwe Jaar Street Parade in Cape Town. (Photo: City of Cape Town)

After a two-year absence because of the pandemic, Cape Town’s traditional Tweede Nuwe Jaar minstrel street parade is back.

The Tweede Nuwe Jaar street parade is one of the highlights of Cape Town’s holiday season, when more than 13,000 minstrels in silk outfits march through the city’s streets twirling colourful umbrellas and playing an array of musical instruments. 

Also back on the festive season calendar is the Cape Malay Choir, which will usher in the New Year with a variety of ghoema songs. The Christmas Choirs will also march through the Cape Flats.

The ghoema drum, made from a small, wooden wine barrel with animal skin stretched over one open end, is a portable percussion instrument originally created by slaves in the Cape.

The Tweede Nuwe Jaar (Second New Year) tradition has been preserved since the mid-19th century. Dutch colonialists first included slaves in their New Year celebrations in the mid-1800s, giving them a day off on 2 January to celebrate in their own manner. However, after slavery was abolished in South Africa in 1834, Tweede Nuwe Jaar became a celebration of freedom marked with street processions, music and song.

On Wednesday, Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis shared the news of the return of the Tweede Nuwe Jaar Street Parade and other holiday festivals at City Hall. Hill-Lewis was flanked by Mayco Member for Safety and Security JP Smith, Kaapse Klopse Karnival Association (KKKA) chairperson Muneeb Gambino, Cape Malay Choir board secretary Ismail Ely and Keep the Dream Choir board chairperson Mogamat Salih Davids.

Kicking off the events leading up to the Tweede Nuwe Jaar Street Parade is the Cape Malay Choir Board choral competition, taking place at the Good Hope Christian Centre in Ottery on Heritage Day. This competition will run until the end of October, culminating in the grand finale at the Athlone Stadium.

Following the Tweede Nuwe Jaar Street Parade is the Keep the Dream choral competition which will take place in January and February 2023.

As a teaser of what Capetonians have been missing, a minstrel group entertained guests in their glittering outfits and painted faces. Hill-Lewis could not contain his enthusiasm and joined the minstrel group, letting his fingers do the talking on the drums, with his hips showing he has some rhythm and promise as a voorlopertjie.

Hill-Lewis said not seeing the minstrel groups performing over the last two summers had left a cultural hole in Cape Town. “Ons wil almal weer ’n slag die klanke van die ghoema hoor en die kleure van die klopse in ons strate sien” (We all want to hear the sounds of the ghoema and see the colours of the minstrels in our streets again).

“Covid has cost us so much as a city, as a people and as a country. It separated us from loved ones, kept us away from theatres, performances and our world famous Klopse and Malay Choir. The pain of the two years only makes our joy today that much more sweet and great… this coming summer, our truly globally renowned Kaapse Klopse, our famous Ghoema, all the famous kleure, wonderful choirs, Malay and Christmas, they are coming back,” he said.

The City committed to financing the festivities for the next three years. JP Smith said that in order to allow for stability and ensure better planning of future events, the City intends to ask the Council to approve new three-year agreements to fund the street march events until the 2024/25 financial year.

“The City’s support through the funding process and the permitting process will be crucial in ensuring that these important cultural events are able to once again take their place as jewels in Cape Town’s annual events calendar. The City is committed to ensuring that we put measures in place for the safe return and successful hosting of these events,” said Smith.

Lauding the City, Muneeb Gambino said the intention to commit to a new three-year sponsorship arrangement “illustrates their commitment to our culture”. This, he added, “will enable us to restart and grow this iconic event and in doing so, leverage its intrinsic socioeconomic value for the benefit of all in the City.

“The Minstrel Carnival in its totality has always been about people on the Cape Flats and the Bo-Kaap. But it is the ghoema beat that ties us together as communities. It is the ghoema that created the likes of Loukmaan Adams, Jonathan Butler and Taliep Petersen. It is important from an economic perspective and important from a social cohesion perspective.

“We must really take the carnival by the scruff of its neck and take it to where it should be – one of the iconic events on the world calendar,” Gambino said.

Ismail Ely and Mogamat Salih Davids expressed their gratitude to the mayor and the City and said that with the pandemic now a thing of the past, together they could strive for excellence in practising their traditions and culture.

Smith said the City wanted the event to be of international standards and a major tourist attraction.

“As with the case of Rio with its amazing Rio Carnival, I want to say to the organisers of these events that I understand you are deeply rooted in heritage and history and it is right that you are proud of your heritage.

“I want to challenge you and say to all the people working in this environment, and the 35,000 people making a living out of these events, you have an obligation on your shoulders to vastly grow the event and make it bigger, prouder and louder and attract more tourists. 

“We cannot rest until this event is as big as the Rio Carnival, because there is nothing that they have that we don’t have,” Smith said. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Danial Ronald Meyer says:

    WONDERFUL news. A much welcomed return. The Tweede Nuwe Jaar street parade has and must always be part of Cape Town’s cultural heritage.

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