Interpretation of yearly themes makes Carnival Calabar unique 

By Eme Offiong, Calabar


The interpretation of yearly themes and competition amongst participating bands have been described as the reasons for the uniqueness of Carnival Calabar.

The Chairman of the Cross River Carnival Commission, Gabe Onah made said this during an interview with Voice of Nigeria in Calabar, the capital city of the southern Nigerian State.

Onah said; “one unique ICON that stands Carnival Calabar out of other carnivals of the world is the fact that we play to a dedicated theme yearly. These themes are the philosophy that guide the operations, that guide the storyline for our successful carnival experience.”

“Again, the carnival is competitive in genre and we do this such that it cannot just be art for art’s sake. It should be arts to excel, and a subject – current, contemporary about the time of the year is chosen,” he explained.

According to him, the previous carnivals, particularly since 2015 when the present Governor, Ben Ayade served his first tenure, have had exotic themes that the competing bands interpret.

Onah said; “In the past we have had themes such as ‘Our Culture, Our heritage’, ‘Ain’t No Stopping Us’, ‘Climate Change’, ‘Migration’ and last year ‘Africanism’. This year, the theme is ‘Humanity’ as unveiled by the Governor few weeks ago.” 

“As Carnival Calabar begins to mature and to grow, we discover that apart from the business of Carnival Calabar, we are beginning to challenge ourselves in terms of thematic contents leading to interpretative content,’ he stated.

Onah emphasised that the carnival also known as ‘Africa’s Biggest Street Party’ has developed to the level where every person, irrespective of status, physical attribute or age.

“If you are blind and you can feel, you will feel the energy of Carnival Calabar. If you are deaf and you can see, you will see the warmth and energy of the carnival. Then if God has blessed you with all the senses, you will be rightly engrossed with the message,” the Chairman stated.

The Chairman espouse the reasons and importance of this year’s carnival theme, noting that the bands would pass on the message using the elements of Threatre such as “drama, costumes, make up, magic, acrobatics and dance.”

He explained; “this theme lays emphasis on our humanity. We have almost lost our human touch, our brotherly love, and good neighbourliness. This is a clarion call that we must step up the game so that we will stay better than animals.” 

Carnival Calabar was started in 2005 by former Governor, Donald Duke with five competing bands identified by their colours. They include Bayside in blue, Seagull adorns red, Freedom uses yellow, Orange represents for Masta Blasta and all time winners of the competition, Passion 4 spots green.


Mercy Chukwudiebere