When Seychelles was first settled, the islands brought together people of multiple backgrounds in one place. These original founders of the modern nation came from a blend of ethnic and racial backgrounds, with each group bringing different customs and ways of life into a common area. Today, the spirit of multiculturalism and unity in Seychelles is a direct result of how those people came together in a melting pot to create a vibrant society that celebrates its multiculturalism with pride, while honouring the spirit of unity that binds the Seychellois to this day.
For the fifth consecutive year, Seychelles celebrated its heritage and culture with the annual Carnaval International de Victoria. Held from April 24 to April 26, 2015, the event was a three-day celebration of the nation’s diversity and the coming together of its people. So, what happened at the 2015 Carnaval International de Victoria?
Floats Take Center Stage
Carnaval is, at its heart, a celebration of culture. The celebration in Seychelles is not just one of local Seychellois culture, but of creole culture everywhere. While thousands attended this year’s event from international destinations near and far, it was the float designs that each delegation displayed that captivated the crowds again in 2015.
The 2015 carnaval saw the return of Kings to Seychelles (in more ways than one, more on that later) as the Notting Hill Carnaval Roadshow from the United Kingdom reclaimed the event’s coveted prize of Best International Float. When carnaval was first held in Seychelles in 2011, the group from Notting Hill, London, wowed the crowds with the best float design. The UK-based group went on to win again in 2012 and 2013 before being dethroned by a delegation from China last year.
This year, however, the Notting Hill group returned with a winning float that wouldn’t be denied victory. Sporting colourful, giant masks, massive floating butterflies, and spider webs, the UK group reclaimed the Best International Float award by topping groups from Brazil and Mauritius, respectively.
Italian female football fans at the Carnaval International de Victoria in Seychelles.
Local Delegations Shine
The Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA) won the prize for the Best Local Float at carnaval. The organisation is in charge of the archipelago’s airports, and created an impressive float that featured a whale shark bursting out of the sea and transforming itself into an Airbus plane. The group’s float was titled “When the Ocean meets the Sky.”
Not to be outdone on the local scene, a group from the island of La Digue took home the prize for Best Cultural Float. Their depiction of a float, resembling a yacht, was in honour of the seafaring history of the Seychellois people. President James Michel was on hand during Sunday’s closing events to pass out the gold awards to all the float winners.
On a special note for the folks at Kreol Magazine, our very own Georgina Dhillon and her team contributed to the success and pageantry of carnaval this year. The winners of the Best Local Band award wore costumes designed and prepared by Dhillon and her associates here at Kreol Magazine in London.
Kids Get Involved Too
Sunday featured the second edition of the Kiddies Carnaval, and helped bring to a close this family friendly weekend of celebration and cultural festivities. Similar to the adult celebrations, children from schools across the nation made costumes and constructed floats using recycled materials. The nine participating schools then joined in a parade with a procession of their own from the playground at Paradis des Enfants to Freedom Square.
The children’s celebration featured seven prize categories and cash prize offers in addition to trophies. Floats featured in the parade represented various aspects of life in Seychelles, the local environment, and even children from other cultures around the world. The big prize, Best Overall Presentation, went to Anse Aux Pins Primary from the island of Mahe. The school, which finished 2nd in the same category last year, took home a cheque for $550 as a reward for its efforts.
Spirit of International Unity
As mentioned earlier, this year’s carnaval celebration marked the return of a King in more ways than one. President Michel was proud to host Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the Ghanaian king of the Ashanti people, as his guest of honor for Carnaval International de Victoria. Swaziland’s Principal Princess Sikhanyiso Dlamini was also on hand as part of a large group of dignitaries celebrating with the people of Seychelles.
The Ashanti King Prempeh I, was exiled to Seychelles in 1896 by the British at the height of the empire’s colonisation of Africa. Prempeh I spent 27 years in exile on Seychelles before being allowed to return home in 1926, though he was forced to accept a lesser title for nearly a decade. Prempeh I was the current Asantehene’s great uncle, and Tutu II took the opportunity during the opening ceremony to address the crowd with the following statement:
“We have chosen not, as some would have wished, to come and mourn and burden ourselves of the pain and anguish of the past. We have chosen instead to join you in celebrating the joy of freedom.”
Making a Big Difference, One Year at a Time
When Seychelles hosted its first Carnaval International de Victoria in 2011, the goal of Alain St. Ange (Seychelles Minister for Tourism and Culture) was to create a cultural event that invited the world to join hands in the interest of peace, dialogue, and harmony. Setting aside religion, politics, and race, St. Ange said:
“Today I say look at what we can do when we work as one. Look at the carnaval a small country like Seychelles can stage for the world at large.”
Seychelles and the Seychellois people are doing their part to bring the world together, one carnaval celebration at a time. This year, roughly 29 international delegations showed up, as well as media houses from around the globe.