Cape Town Carnival: where the magic happens

Construction lead Maluva Gandiwa from Mfuleni explains how the team structured the tree, which, once complete, will be a float at the Cape Town Carnival.

With the Cape Town Carnival returning to its home on the Fan Walk and on Somerset Road in Green Point on Saturday March 18, the crew are hard at work preparing floats and costumes, spreading glitter and colour that will adorn the streets on the day.

The street parade was put on hold for three years due to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown regulations.

At the workshop, situated in Maitland, organisers showed guests where the magic happens, describing half-finished works which will culminate into the aesthetics which make up the carnival.

The theme this year is Afr’Energy, which symbolises the sense of reinvigoration that is being felt across the city after the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The chair of the Cape Town Carnival board of trustees, Rachel Jafta, said Cape Town Carnival’s aim had always been to build social cohesion and to create jobs. “When I am here (at the workshop), I am always so aware of the many layers of the carnival and I get a sense of reality of all the work that goes into all the glamour we get to see on the Fan Walk.”

She said there had been a lot of growth for many who sought work at the carnival and started off as cleaners or general workers. “Here, a lot of people work hard to make it happen, and we have hope that we can do it.”

Maluva Gandiwa with workshop coordinator Franco Pascoe, holding a prototype of the aardvark.

In the construction department, headed by Maluva Gandiwa, the shells of the floats are constructed and put together.

Mr Gandiwa, from Mfuleni, started working at the carnival in 2012. Since he had no skills, he started out as a cleaner at the warehouse. Through the years, he was taught skills such as carpentry, the use of power tools, among others.

He now is the construction lead, and runs his own business with the skills he learnt over the years.

Mr Gandiwa said the process starts at the design and marketing departments, where the ideas for the floats are put onto paper and then made into prototypes, and they are tasked with building and welding the structures out of steel. He said they have to be sturdy to make sure they can be transported safely through the parade on carnival day. “This is the hard part, because this is the shell, and you can’t really make out what it is until it goes through the process – you’ll never say its the same thing that came from construction.”

He said for the upcoming carnival, they were working on the structure of a tree, which represents diversity and the connection to mother nature, as well as a giant aardvark, which speaks to the connection to the ancestors of the land.

When complete, the structure is then passed on to the fabrication team, where the structure gets its “skin”.

Daniel Benn, from Rondebosch, sexplains the work of the fabrication department, which he heads up.

Daniel Benn from Rondebosch, started at the workshop in 2018 fresh out of high school and worked his way up through the ranks. He now heads up the fabrication department.

Mr Benn said the structures start coming together in the fabrication department, where they use prototypes made to the exact scale.

Luwando Mnyanga, from Nyanga, adds colour to a float.

The next step is adding colour to the floats. Luwando Mnyanga, from Nyanga, uses a spray painter to bring the open canvases to life using the colour schemes given from the design department.

Mr Mnyanga said he too had started out as a general worker in 2015, and was eager to learn how to paint. With the help of the carnival, he managed to upskill, and is now able to show off those skills in the form of the artwork done on the floats.

Thozama Kakana from Claremont working on the lights for the carnival floats.

After the finishing touches, the last step is the lights, which bring the floats to life. Thereafter, the float is done, and ready to be displayed on carnival day.

While the bigger works are in production, which takes around three weeks to complete, the costume and make-up departments prepare for the dressing of over 1300 dancers and performers on carnival day.

Chad Hendricks, from Bonteheuwel, runs the costume department.

The costume department is headed by Chad Abrahams, from Bonteheuwel.

This year, he said, they were making 1349 costumes, which they started designing at the end of last year.

He said this year, the team was largely focusing on upcycling and reusing materials. He said the costuming department starts work when the theme is finalised.

Lucky Mcoteli from Nyanga works on headdresses for performers.

There is also a team dedicated to making the headdresses and jewellery.

Seamstress Beaura Jacobs from Tamboerskloof fits a costume on model Lana Fortune – Grootboom from Athlone

The make-up is done by Raine Tauber of Durbanville, who, with a “massive” backstage team, creates the looks of the dancers and performers on carnival day.

She said the make-up team spends months with the creative department and designers, preparing the looks for the dancers, using mood boards and face charts to fit the theme.

Raine Tauber of Durbanville completes a make-up look on model Lana Fortune – Grootboom from Athlone

“Cape Town Carnival is the wildest ride for make-up. We sometimes see 2 000 artists for the day, and each face takes about 40 minutes to complete. It’s totally crazy, but we pull it off and the end results are amazing.“

The Cape Town Carnival will take place on March 18 from 6pm on the Fan Walk and in Somerset Road in Green Point.

Performers give guests a taste of what’s to come at the Cape Town Carnival.

Entry to the event is free, but tickets will also be available for seats in stands along the parade route.

Tickets for Cape Town Carnival can be bought from Quicket.

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