Ghoema & Glitter: New Year's Carnival in Cape Town, a terrific new exhibition, opened last Saturday at the Castle of Good Hope, the ancient Dutch East India Company fort that's pride and joy of Iziko, the Museums of Cape Town.
A "board," in the style of those carried by Cape Town's Carnival troupes, is seen in the courtyard of the Castle, during the opening of Iziko's new exhibition, "Ghoema & Glitter." Cape Town, 5 June 2010. (All photos copyright John Edwin Mason, 2010. Click directly on the images to see larger versions.)
The exhibition is a comprehensive look at the New Year's Carnival, using costumes, musical instruments, video displays, and many, many photos. As the Iziko says, it "showcases a part of history and culture unique to Cape Town and South Africa. It focuses on how carnival participation has been passed on from generation to generation, while tracing the carnival’s roots and its transformation over the centuries. ...social life, politics, identity, popular culture, ritual and day-to-day life all come together in the celebration of carnival and in the performances of the Malay choirs, Christmas bands and klopse [minstrel] troupes."
Members of the District Six Hanover Street Minstrels entertain the crowd, during the opening of Iziko's new exhibition, "Ghoema & Glitter." Cape Town, 5 June 2010.
The day began -- very appropriately -- with musical performances. The District Six Hanover Street Minstrels represented Cape Town's many Carnival troupes (the subjects of my new book, One Love, Ghoema Beat: Inside the Cape Town Carnival.
Kaatjie Davids leads the Continentals Male Choir in a performance, during the opening of Ghoema & Glitter. Cape Town, 5 June 2010.
The Continental Male Choir stood in for the many all-male Malay Choirs that are an important part of the New Year's Carnival. Dressed in colorful track suits (and called nag troepe), they parade through the streets of Cape Town on New Year's Eve. In blazers, ties, and fezzes, they're Malay Choirs. Their fiercely competitive singing contests are the subject of the award-winning documentary Silver Fez. (Kaatjie Davids and the Continentals are featured in the film.)
The Continentals perform a moppie (a comic song), during the opening of Ghoema & Glitter. Cape Town, 5 June 2010.
By the way, it's no accident that you're seeing lots of banjos in these photos. The instrument arrived in Cape Town in the nineteenth century. It came via traveling American minstrel shows, which were hugely popular in South Africa and strongly influenced the traditional music of the Carnival. (Interestingly enough, the banjo has roots in Africa.
Spectators at the opening of Ghoema & Glitter. Cape Town, 5 June 2010.
Everyone of the hundreds of people who attended Saturday's event seemed to be having fun. Many are connected to the Carnival, and all the comments that I heard about the exhibition were very positive.
Children stand in front of a video projection at the opening of Ghoema & Glitter. Cape Town, 5 June 2010.
Ghoema and Glitter is cleverly put together. There's enough substance to satisfy adults and more than enough eye candy to keep kids happy.
A spectator views one of the exhibits at Ghoema and Glitter. Cape Town, 5 June 2010.
Several of my Carnival photos are on display in the exhibition. The woman above is looking at one of them, an image of a troupe that dresses as "American Indians."
Visitors sit in front of a photo of a Carnival choir at the opening of Ghoema & Glitter. Cape Town, 5 June 2010.
This photo of a Carnival troupe's choir in competing in a soccer stadium is also mine. I have to admit that I was floored (and, yes, very pleased) to see one of my photos printed 15 feet across.
Ghoema & Glitter runs until 31 January 2011. The Castle is open daily, and, conveniently for World Cup visitors, it's in the heart of central Cape Town, near City Hall.