Cape Town - South Africa January 2006  

A Carnival of Dreams 

Fifty senior officials from Twenty eight different groups affiliated to the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival Association (CATOMICA). The venue chosen for this historical gathering was the Dennebos Resort, the pride of our province, nestled in the majestic Overberg Mountains.

The group arrived by luxury bus on Friday evening and immediately started work on what was to be a weekend of brainstorming around ways to make the next carnival the best the city has ever seen. Issues like time management, discipline and strategies to enhance the image of the carnival was high on the agenda.

After a restful night in the several spacious chalets reserved for the two-day workshop the proceedings kicked off with a rousing opening address by Mr. Gert Bam, Director of Social Development for the City of Cape Town. Organization, Fundraising, Tourism and Development was identified as the key points that will be focused on in the coming months, as the City and CATOMICA gear up for the festivities. He stressed the importance of building links with the private sector in the years to follow and how these links can only become a reality if the City and CATOMICA prove that the carnival is well organized, viable as a major international tourism attraction and an event that will, in the near future, be an event that can be equally enjoyed by members of all the diverse communities in Cape Town. He ended his address by making a commitment to make the Civic Centres all over the city available to the groups who need spaces to practice their music and learn their songs and dance routines that they’ll perform in the annual competition. The room bust out in applause at this welcomed offer as many of the groups have to practice in conditions that are not conducive to delivering the quality required to compete at the high levels some of the more established groups reached.

Bam’s address was followed by a short but powerful speech by Councillor Lydia Anderson Jardine who sits on the CATOMICA board as a representative of the City. She emphasized that hers was a monitoring role and that the people in the room should take ownership of the process while at the same time realize that the carnival doesn’t only belong to the communities where the groups come from or the people of Cape Town but that the carnival belongs to the whole world and as such should aspire to the highest standards. This brought thunderous applause from the gathering that then broke into four groups of approximately 15 people each to start on the serious part of the weekend’s activities. The four facilitators, provided by the City, were tasked to get as much input from the participants as possible so that the outcomes could be a true reflection of what each group would like to the carnival to be. The enthusiastic working groups hotly debated issues like adjudication, conduct, governance and time management. Although many members of the CATOMICA board were present, they were noticeable by their absence in the working groups. When asked why this was so, Mr Kevin Momberg replied, “we don’t want the members to feel that the process is top down but that all decisions reached were decisions that came from the members themselves.” He added, “In the past there was always a perception that the board was to dictatorial and that members had little say in what decisions are made around issues that effect them. This board wants to dispel those perceptions and give each and every member a voice because we recognize that, ultimately, they are the heartbeat of the CATOMICA activities and without them there is no carnival and without the carnival at New Years, Cape Town just won’t be the same. We want to make sure that this treasured and age-old tradition is preserved but at the same time we want to ensure that the public, the people who travel for miles to come and enjoy the carnival, is treated to a well-organized and high quality event. After all, they spend their hard earned money to attend and therefore deserve the best.” 

Some of the participants were very vocal about what the workshop signified. As Mr. Noor Mitchell from the popular Harare Elsies River group said, “I’ve been with the minstrels all my life and I’ve never felt this positive about the direction the carnival is going” He was supported by Ms Lily Ford of the Heideveld Entertainers who added, ”this is truly an historical event. I feel this will see a transformation in the carnival as we know it and, hopefully, the standards will be raised as a result of the carefully set out policies and procedures outlined in the final report, which we can expect at the end of the coming week. I would like to add that the CATOMICA board has, in my mind, proved that they are capable of providing much needed leadership that will take us into a brighter than ever future.”

Councilor Anderson Jardine made the commented that although their was some reason for criticism of the way the carnival was organized in the past, the board held the philosophy that instead of cursing the darkness, we should be lighting some candles.

By the looks on the faces of the members at the end of the workshop, it was clear that the flame of hope for a very successful carnival would be burning brightly in the townships around Cape Town as the groups boarded the bus to go to their respective homes.

Whoever cooked the food for this event should be working in a top restaurant, anywhere in the world? It was out of this world.

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