The Lagos Carnival, also known as Fanti (mask) or Caretta is a colourful parade of plumes, pomp and pageantry with dances to crown it all. The carnival was recently celebrated in Lagos Island on May 13th as part of the events to mark the cities 50th Anniversary. Traditionally celebrated on Easter Monday and part of the Black Heritage Festival, the Carnival began as an eclectic display by the emancipados; returnees from Brazil and Cuba who found their way back to Lagos on their release from slavery.

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Some who could not trace their original homes remained in Sierra Leone or Liberia.   Many of these emancipados were originally from Lagos, taken away about 200 hundred years ago when the small fishing town was a slave colony. Whilst in slavery, the Africans tried to keep the memory of their motherland alive through various activities, eventually mixing their culture with those of the Brazilian natives. On their return, they celebrated their local culture alongside that of their colonizers. As the street carnival is to Brazil, so it is to the Lagosians as well. Mr. Wale Adeniji, the carnival’s coordinator for the last five years calls it a galvanizing event in which citizens originally from the Island and those of different ethnic identities come together to celebrate their heritage. The carnival features in the list of 20 spectacular festivals to watch around the world. The event was celebrated in two parts – a parade of colours by different troupes snaking through the streets, which stopped at the Lagos Boat Club as a symbolic reminder of their means of return to the land. A second show was hosted at the Tafewa Balewa Square on the island, representing the different communities from Lagos’ Brazilian quarters. These were accompanied by smaller troupes showcasing the ethnic diversity of Nigeria.


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Beautiful costumes, some downright terrifying representing the Ijebu Ode from Ogun State, Egu Odu dancers from Ibo land and Epe were part of the attractions. So were colourful masquerades from Calabar and a troupe representing South Africa to signify Lagos States’ acceptance of visitors from all over the world.

Image Credit : Barbara Muriungi.