About 10 000 marchers, singers and dancers, with painted faces and sporting kilometers of brightly coloured satin – transvestites, gymnasts, brass marching bands and Ghoema drums, among them – paraded through Cape Town on 2 January to celebrate the city’s annual “Tweede Nuwejaar Cape Minstrel Carnival”. The spectacle was witnessed by tens of thousands of locals and tourists who thronged the traditional marching route from District Six through the central city and the Bo Kaap.
The carnival is one of Cape Town’s most enduring traditions with roots stretching all the way back to the 1700s when groups of slaves of African, Madagascan, Indian and Indonesian origin gathered in public places after working on Sundays or public holidays, particularly on the day after New Year, for song, dance and pantomime. Indigenous Khoi and European musical styles were also embraced. Later, in the 1800s, after the Cape was visited by United States confederate ships, such as the Alabama, American minstrelsy, painted faces, banjos and crooning were added to the unique cultural mix. Alongside the Klopse tradition there also emerged the traditions of the Malay Choirs, Nagkoore (night choirs) and Christmas Choir Bands.
For hundreds of years the evolving Kaapse Klopse Carnival literally represented the freedom of the human spirit as a counterpoint to the deprivations and degradations of slavery, colonialism and apartheid.
Today, the carnival celebrates the diverse strands that make up the fabric of Cape Town society. About 70 Klopse troupes, from communities across Cape Town and the Cape Flats, participated in the 2012 carnival. The troupes are judged and win prizes, for among other things, their dress and the caliber of their bands and choirs.