Cape Town Carnival

The Kaapse Klopse, or Cape Carnival, dates back to the 19th century. It has its origins in Cape Town’s slave community, when, on a rare holiday on New Year’s Day, the city’s slaves arranged a day of festivities. While slavery is a distant memory, this New Year’s tradition lives on.

The Kaapse Klopse is a New Year’s carnival that usually takes place in the streets of Cape Town on the 2nd of January, a date known as Tweede Nuwejaar(second new year).

Rooted in slave culture, the tradition is a modern day take on the celebrations held when the slaves in the Cape were given a holiday at the start of a new year.

Preparations for the Cape carnival start well in advance, with minstrel troupes rehearsing songs, dance routines and parades for months. Costume preparation – usually boldly coloured satin fabric, bow ties, umbrellas and hats – begins in August, although some troupes start their rehearsals and preparations as early as July.

Over the years, these minstrels, with their rich blend of music and spectacle, were grouped into ‘klopse’, or clubs. Cheered on with loud support from scores of spectators, they began a tradition of parading through the city to a local stadium where the annual competition is held.

Today, up to 10 000 banjo-strumming minstrels take to the streets of District Six, winding through the central business district of Cape Town on their way to Green Point Stadium (although each year there may be some variation to the route).

With troupe names like ‘Cape Flats Minstrels’, ‘Unlimited Community Entertainers’ and ‘Classic Youth Development’, the carnival has become a symbol and celebration of life in the Cape, as well as a fun way to welcome in the New Year.


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