Cape Town doesn’t have many city wide festivals of which to speak (aside from the public holidays detailed in the previous section). In terms of religious holidays, Cape Town’s strong Jewish and Islamic communities ensure that calendar fixtures such as Yom Kippur and Eid are given their due respect, and children of these religions are allowed off school to observe their sacred days.
The most notable politically and historically themed festival in Cape Town is the Kaapse Klopse (Cape Clubs), also known as the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, an annual festival that begins on January first and continues throughout the month. The festival has its origins in the tour of Cape Town by a black group of Virginian minstrels (Christy’s Minstrels), who purportedly amazed crowds by proving that blacks were capable of a professional level of musical performance. The minstrels performed with their faces painted black in indictment of the horrors of slavery.
Blackface minstrelsy was soon picked up by locals, particularly Cape coloreds of Asian and Griqua descent, and the festival began, celebrated each year on Emancipation Day, the 1st of January (or Second New Years, as the day is locally known).
It has since come to dominate the streets of lower Cape Town for much of the month, as busy thoroughfares are shut down to make way for singing, dancing, costume competitions and marching-band processions by the various troupes down Wale and Adderley Street. And the carnival doesn’t end here – continuing competition between the choirs and performing artists that partake in the Carnival are attended by thousands in stadiums and auditoriums throughout the months of February and March.
For a thorough discussion of the cultural and historical significance of the Minstrel Carnival, as well as the order of the various events each year, visit http://bit.ly/12EPOs.