This is a minstrel Festival that takes place every year on January 2nd.
Minstrels or singers participate in this festival – expect to see as many as 13,000 of them take to the streets dressed in bright colors, carrying and playing an assortment of musical instruments. Participants are from working class, ‘colored’ families who are carrying on the customs, preserved since the mid 19th century.
It is also called the Coon Carnival by the residents of Cape Town – local authorities have renamed the event Cape Town Minstrel Carnival to make it more appealing to visitors.
It is believed that the carnival was inspired by a African American group of minstrels who docked at the port in Cape Town. This was in the 1800s and this group entertained sailors with a lot of music and the most famous song “Daar kom die Alibama” refers to the ship that brought the minstrels to this part of the world. It is also believed that the minstrels were actually caucasian and painted their faces black – hence the painted faces even today.
There are over 169 troupes and they are represented by the Kaapse Klopse Karnaval Association. There are many such troupes which have broken away to form their own associations.
The festival begins on the 1st of January and goes on through the month. There are run events like street parades, dancing and singing, marching through the streets and many costume competitions too. Quite a few of the troupes are now sponsored by companies – some others choose to remain independent and keep their traditions.