Seychelles' greatest carnival is a beacon to the world for unity, peace and harmony
The organisers of Seychelles' biggest carnival chose a poignant theme for this year's event.
With countries across the globe suffering the effects of extremism, terror attacks and mass migration, Carnaval International de Victoria concentrated on the values of national unity and harmony.
The carnival has now become the most important event in the Seychelles’ cultural calendar and Seychelles Tourism Minister Alain St Ange said that with the sixth edition “the dream of uniting people through culture is becoming a reality”.
President Michel, Founding President James Mancham and Vice-President Danny Faure and other prominent people were among the enthusiastic crowd at the opening ceremony in Stad Popiler.
Mr St Ange told them: “We have but one Seychelles and we are but one people and at this cultural event we are all standing together, and will stand together tomorrow and throughout the day crammed along the streets of Victoria, and we shall all realise that political affiliation is not a ticket to divide us as a people.”
He went on: “We are and we remain one people in our Seychelles as we enjoy this carnival, spreading the theme of unity here in Seychelles and in the world at large.”
To the many international representatives he said: “You are once again proudly flying your flag, at an event now referred to as the United Nations gathering of culture.”
Sherin Naiken, chief executive of Seychelles Tourism Board, said that the Seychelles carnival made a strong statement at a time of international turmoil and pointed the way to a better world.
She said: “We want the Seychelles carnival to be seen as a symbol of the coming together of peoples of different colours, faith and political ideals. Rallying under one banner – that of harmony, understanding, and faith in a common future.”
A total of 23 international delegations, including singer and artist Sofia Jannok who represented an indigenous community in Sweden, took part in the carnival and emphasising its global appeal Sherin Naiken said more than 100 journalists from across the world covered the event.
She told them: “It’s through your work that we are able to spread the message of the carnival across the world. Every year if there’s one message we try to pass on it is the message of unity and the message of peace because it is through this carnival you see countries parading side by side.”
The three days of celebrations included displays from the UK's Notting Hill Carnival, the Brazil Carnival, the Carnival from Indonesia, the Dusseldorf and Cologne Carnivals from Germany and troupes from Cuba, China, Vietnam, South Africa, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Kenya, Lebanon, Italy, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
At the begininng of the celebrations, the atmosphere was set when a Brazilian samba group joined with Indian dancers and drummers from Réunion and Seychelles' own Patrick Victor, Joe Samy and the Mardilo dancers from La Digue.
Praslinois also got a taste of the carnival as top entertainers from Brazil, Notting Hill, China, Germany and Italy crossed to the island.
It was the first time that carnival delegations travelled to another part of the archipelago.
At the end, judges decided on the contest winners. The Notting Hill Carnival Roadshow Company from the UK took the best international float title for the fifth time. Reunion island and Indonesia were second and third.
The reclaimed island of Perseverance, which has the largest ongoing social housing project, won best local float.
La Digue, Seychelles' third largest island, retained the title it won in 2015 for best cultural float, depicting the economic activities that take place at L’Union Estate.
The Seychelles Tourism Academy won best school float, while China and India were rewarded for having put up an exceptional show during the carnival parade.
With a display of traditional pirates, La Retraite primary school was the grand winner of the Kiddies Carnival in the Paradis des Enfants in Victoria and won R7,500 from the Seychelles Tourism Board.
Today, the organisers of the carnival can perhaps best judge how successful it was from the comments of Phillipe Mroimana of Reunion.
He said: “Participating in the Seychelles carnival is a time of fraternity, unity and Indian Ocean cooperation.”