Pedro Kavhai hard at work with last-minute touches to the floats for the carnival.
Pedro Kavhai hard at work with last-minute touches to the floats for the carnival.
The Cape Town Carnival is a glamorous celebration of the transformative power of creativity.     Armand Hough African News Agency (ANA)
The Cape Town Carnival is a glamorous celebration of the transformative power of creativity. Armand Hough African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - With two weeks to go before the Cape Town Carnival lights up the city’s streets, there is much activity at its workshop in Maitland.

Sewing machines hum as costumes are stitched together and sparks fly off the welding machines. Music blares through the building where much of the magic happens. But there’s always time for a quick game of football during lunch.

The carnival, now in its 10th year, will celebrate Cape Town’s cultures with the theme Vuka Ukhanye: Arise and Shine.

Making sure the 2 200 performers in 54 groups dress the part, the costume design department works its way through 1 500 outfits.

Some of it is re-purposed from previous carnivals. Or as costume fabricator Gillian Florence explained: “We have to be creative with limited resources.”

The hardest to make are the backpacks, Florence said.

They have to ensure the costumes are durable to withstand the hustle and bustle of the street parade which takes place on Saturday, March 16 in Green Point.

Angela MacPherson, who works in the float building department, said the team was always looking at new ways to do things.

And in building massive floats and marionettes like Vukani, the team too grows and “conquer our fears”, she said.

“No one is an expert,” she said, explaining how they called in help to give life to Vukani, which means an awake being.

When asked how long it took to build the illuminated Vukani, she laughed. “Too short. We started building three weeks ago. And it will take another two weeks to finish”.

Another float they are proud of is Monster, which represents conquering your fears.

Lead performer Nonkoliseko Somagu is a master’s student at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. She was part of a group from the Cape Town Carnival who returned from a festival in Hong Kong two weeks ago.

Explaining how she becomes one with the character, she said: “I am owning it. I am the African sun.”

A big part of the carnival’s allure is the colourful characters taking part. Make-up artist Raine Tauber is part of a team making sure the artists “shine”. This is very different to Paris Fashion Week where she is a regular.

“But this is the funnest,” she said, fresh from touching up the blue make-up on a Samba dancer.

Seventy make-up artists will execute the vision, which is dictated by the various floats. The weirdest they’ve done is the jellyfish. This year there are monsters in the mix and the team will go through “loads” of make-up.

“It’s full body, so it’s lots of make-up,” she said.

The first Cape Town Carnival was hosted in Long Street in 2010 and drew around 11 000 spectators. Last year it attracted about 54 000.

According to the organisers last year’s carnival contributed R58.5 million to the city.

Creative director Brad Baard said: “The culture of our city is unique and vital. It’s in how people treat each other, how we show up, respect and regard each other, how we interact, how we see each other. It’s part of the fabric of our society.”

Weekend Argus