Dark clouds were hanging much of Friday over Victoria and rain at times bucketed down as if there were no tomorrow but right on the dot did the sun break through and by 18.30 hrs the sky over the Stade Popilar in the heart of the Seychelles capital was clear enough to kick off the 2014 edition of what has truly become the Mother of all Carnivals.
The two speakers, Sherin Naiken of the Seychelles Tourism Board and the brain behind the carnival idea, Tourism and Culture Minister Alain St. Ange, talked of new superlatives and the record numbers of visitors from abroad, who came to participate, or just see, the festival’s opening, the main parade through the city on Saturday and the finale with the Kiddies Carnival and an evening closing party as the countdown starts already for 2015.
President James Alix Michel once again graced the occasion, accompanied by members of his cabinet, the Chief Justice – a Ugandan no less – and even the leader of the opposition was at hand in a spirit of Seychellois unity brought about by the carnival, an event which according to Alain St. Ange sees the world descend on the main island of Mahe, beyond political affiliation, beyond religious beliefs, beyond the colour of one’s skin and beyond ethnic origin. ‘Here people are people and it is the only world event staged for the community of nations where everyone is respected as a person. Even in the General Assembly of the United Nations, when some world leaders stand to delivery their address, some delegates walk out, but here respect for everyone is and will remain the key to the ties of friendship and togetherness’ did the minister tell the crowd and assembled international media, while also appealing for the 2015 event to bring Seychellois from around the world back to the country next year for a visit and to participate.
And then did the stage lights brighten up the night as did laser beams reaching high into the sky as troupe after troupe and performer after performer showcased themselves to a record crowd in the stadium, with the section of the local spectators no doubt the most vocal one, clapping, shouting, whistling and singing along when Seychellois artists stood in the spotlights. The Brazil Carnival but also the performers from Trinidad & Tobago, from China and South Korea certainly earned their keep when they thrilled the crowd, giving a sneak preview of what can be expected when the juggernaut makes its way on Saturday afternoon through Victoria with, as in past years, the streets lined 10 and more deep to catch a glimpse of the costumes and the dance moves.
The hour and a half of performance flew by as there was not a dull moment to be remembered and the brief and light rain-shower did little to dampen the mood but kept everyone on their feet or in their seats. No doubt this was the most spectacular opening night yet to be seen over the past four carnival festivals and the great outdoor atmosphere under star lit skies and with a warm breeze only served to enhance this unique experience of lights, colours and sounds. Coming up next, the main juggernaut, aka the Carnival Parade, this Saturday afternoon through Victoria, so keep watching this space for more video uploads to YouTube and more pictures and reports, which however are a mere spot insight into what unfolds live in front of the eyes of thousands and thousands of spectators and over 150 international media personnel.
Seychelles, truly Another World.