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Last Updated: Monday, 28 November 2005, 08:42 GMT
Is carnival an African tradition?
Carnival dancer

As Nigeria holds its first ever carnival, should Christians and Muslims condemn the event as pagan and barbaric?

The carnival organisers say the four-day event will unite the country and bring in foreign exchange.

The colour, elegance and cultural diversity of Nigeria will be on show with masquerades, a durbar ensemble of horses and traditional circus performances.

But Nigeria's religious leaders claim carnival is not African, arguing that it will promote only idolatry and immorality and invite the wrath of God on the nation.

Is carnival a bit of harmless fun or an excuse for drunken debauchery? Is there a tradition of carnival in Africa? Would you like to see your country host a carnival?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Your comments:

All traditional events in Africa are more or less carnivals
Yinka Aderibigbe, Nigeria
Carnival is harmless fun which is not alien to Africa. All the traditional events in Africa are more or less carnivals. Methinks the Christians and Muslims are taking it too far by tagging the event as pagan and barbaric. A Yoruba adage says " before the advent of corn, the fowl was not starving". Africans had been enjoying carnivals before the new faiths came.
Yinka Aderibigbe, Osogbo, Nigeria

Carnival is very African. It dates long before Islam and Christianity and has never been found harmful to the society. Although there must be some excesses in some cases, there is nothing to be scared of.
Gusanu B Sovi, Kano, Nigeria

It is not purely an African, European nor American tradition any more
Dane Fredenburg, Sao Paulo
While it is true the carnival ("goodbye to meat") originated in southern Europe, and Catholics then brought it with them to their colonies, one has only to see a carnival in Brazil, Barbados or Trinidad to realise how those of African descent in those countries absorbed and adapted the original idea into their own context. It is this carnival that is being seen in Africa. It is not purely an African, European nor American tradition any more. As for those who worry about its "immoral" influences, I can only say that it is less an imported influence than a mirror that reflects the society it is in.
Dane Fredenburg, Sao Paulo, Brazil

What does it matter whether it has African roots? It is now being imported and I welcome it. It will take people's minds off all the negative things, and let them have some fun. Some people are always negative about everything - even when they don't know what Carnival is about.
Kevin O, Florida, USA

Infrastructure and security are the priorities, not carnival.
Mucuro, Nacala, Mozambique

People should be free to celebrate in their own ways
Jidelatif, UK
I believe the carnival should be given all the encouragement it needs in order to showcase what we have in Africa. Abuja is the young capital of Nigeria which is a diverse country - people should be free to celebrate in their own ways, and not have the righteous imposing their will on the people.
Jidelatif, UK

Let no one criticise anyone on religious grounds in Nigeria, because we have seen many atrocities committed in the name of religion. If this carnival will bring people together I have no qualms about it. What Nigerians need now is unity, not division in the name of religion or politics. Let life go on - its just entertainment.
Abdul Kamara, Kadugli, Sudan

The carnival has its roots in Africa, however it serves no purpose in Africa today. The nudity and carousing that is obviously copied from the Brazilian carnival will only increase the moral decay of society in Nigeria. I wouldn't take part in it if it were to happen in Kenya.
Isaac Kamau, Nairobi, Kenya

To me, the carnivals are all about sex and nothing else.

Shuttie Libuta, Kitwe, Zambia

Never mind the elegance and colour of these carnivals, what about the nakedness and the wriggling of bodies that may end up inviting the opposite sex? Are we short of additional means of promoting the acquisition of the HIV/AIDS virus? Can anyone imagine how our men can survive the sight of half naked women throughout the festival? If Christians and Muslims condemn the event, then we must be rest assured that our living God abhors it outright. To me, the carnivals are all about sex and nothing else. For a person who's lost half of her relatives through sex related activities, I get some goose flesh on my body to think of anyone advocating for carnivals. You do not have to be Christian or Muslim to identify a trend that is not attached to our African roots.

It is a matter of name. Around Lagos, there is the eyo festival. In northern Nigeria, it is grand durbar, in the east, ofala/mmanwu festival. These are all carnivals of a sort. So why can't the diverse cultures be showcased in a unique blend at national level, which will promote peace, unity and love.
Iloabuchi Toch, Tallahassee, US

I have witnessed three carnivals here in Guinea Bissau. I must confess, it is quite interesting. Carnival, please, welcome!
Sylvester 'Sylmons' Simon

All work without play, makes Jack a dull boy. In my country, Nigeria, there are tensions at all times. A little time for carnival will be welcome. I have witnessed three carnivals here in Guinea Bissau. I must confess, it is quite interesting. Africa have almost changed everything that makes us African. We have changed our skin colour with cream. We now eat bottled and canned food. House wives dress in jeans and T-shirts, with no more wrapper around their beautiful waistline. We prefer the western drinks and food to our traditional Ogoro and foofoo with Eguisi soup. In those days, we used to have the new yam festival, where we enjoyed ourselves and took part in wrestling matches and other merry making shows. Since all these are gone, CARNIVAL PLEASE WELCOME!
Sylvester 'Sylmons' Simon, Bissau, Guinea Bissau

One can not trace the existence of carnival in Africa's history. Maybe it existed with a different name. But one thing I fear is that Africans have always added some sort of African touch to anything borrowed from the West, which in effect has a dangerous consequence on the populace. Carnivals without indecency or immorality will do no harm.
Morfaw Rene, African/Southern Cameroonian in Belgium

Carnival is not African and we should be very careful that the bad things associated with it are not exported to Africa.
Kwaku Sakyi-Danso, Accra, Ghana
Carnival is not African and we should be very careful that the bad things associated with it are not exported to Africa. I would not want my country Ghana to host this carnival. I do not think it unites but brings about bad culture which is not African. I hope wherever this carnival originated from had good intentions not the bad ones we see these days.
Kwaku Sakyi-Danso, Accra, Ghana

The truth about carnival in Nigeria, a replica of the FESTAC '77, is that it is idolatry. We know that most of the ancient masquerades that will be on display at the carnival cannot be moved and brought to the public without sacrifices. We should be thinking about how to take Nigeria out of its economic and political quagmire and not about carnival for now. This could be another means of siphoning off public money.
Emeka, Lagos, Nigeria

Why not? Must it be war all the time?
Jacob Shaibu Ekele, Nigeria
The Christian leaders cannot claim to be more righteous than Christ nor the Muslims holier than Mohammed. If this is the only thing that can take one's mind away from the bad blood, create an enabling environment for business and showcase our culture and diversity, then why not? Must it be war all the time?
Jacob Shaibu Ekele, Port Harcourt, Nigeria

Maybe it should be given an African name for us to appreciate it. I am sure that carnival in Europe or America will not be the same as the one in Africa. The picture above doesn't depict a real African carnival.
Peter Pablo Bainda, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Though carnival is traditionally not a African thing, what will it hurt to have something to take our minds off all the misery and poverty going on in Nigeria right now? Is our religious leaders' faith in God so weak that they think a carnival will promote idolatry? Have they not got better things to do, like pray for the recovery of our nation than to try and censor a carnival?
Hakeem, New York, USA

Africans are known for such entertainments because Africans are always happy despite the hardship of life in our beloved, colourful continent. Carnival is for entertainment and therefore, it has nothing to do with harming ordinary people in Africa. Some communities see carnival as a tradition and value it in their culture, others do not.
Peter Tuach, Minnesota, USA

From what I know as an African, I doubt that there's any trace of carnival in our tradition. It's just not our style! Hosting a carnival isn't a bad idea, though.
Comfort Sarkodee-Addo, Cape Coast, Ghana


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