The roots of the New Year’s Carnival, in Cape Town, South Africa, stretch back over 200 years, to the days of slavery and colonialism. In its modern form, it’s been a much anticipated annual event for over a century. Each year, the Carnival troupes--there are over 60 of them--choose a theme. This year, the Atlantis Community Entertainers choose celebrate the election of Barack Obama.
This was by no means the only example of Obamamania that I saw in South Africa, in December and January. Many South Africans, of all colors, admire him. This is partly a genuine response to Obama’s charisma and message of hope and partly a symptom of South Africans’ unhappiness with the current crop of political leaders.
I made these photos of the Carnival troupes--the Kaapse Klopse, as they’re sometimes called--on 3 January 2009, during the troupes’ annual march through central Cape Town. They're part of a book that I'm working on about the Carnival.
As you might guess from the last photo, there’s at least one South African politician who’s still everyone’s hero: Nelson Mandela.