Home ARTS & CULTURE Calabar Carnival: A Kaleidoscope of Culture, And Economic Revitalization

Calabar Carnival: A Kaleidoscope of Culture, And Economic Revitalization

by inlandtownadmin
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Calabar Carnival in Cross River State, Nigeria, celebrates Christmas in December, boosting tourism. Started by ex-Governor Donald Duke, it evolved into a two-week event under Governor Benedict Ayade, now recognized as Nigeria’s largest carnival and an international festival showcasing Africa’s richness and youth pride.

The carnival has always been entertaining and colourful as different competitions take place and huge cash prizes are won. Known as Canaan City, Calabar is the capital of Cross River State in south-eastern Nigeria. Nestled near the Calabar and Great Kwa Rivers, along with Cross River creeks, it annually hosts the Calabar Carnival.Started in 2004 by former governor Donald Duke, it promotes tourism and boosts the local economy. Osima-Dokubo emphasizes the event’s goal to embrace local heritage, culture, and empower locals economically.

Each year, the tourism and cultural activities committee crafts the carnival program, introducing new initiatives with different themes. In December 2009, the Carnival Committee organized “Carnival Cup 2009,” a football competition among the five competing bands – Seagull, Passion 4, Masta Blasta, Bayside, and Freedom. These bands, distinguished by colors (Red, Green, Orange, Blue, and Yellow respectively), showcase unique styles and coordination.

The Festival also includes music performance from both local and international artists, the annual Calabar Carnival, Boat regatta, Fashion shows (introduced in 2016), Beauty pageant (Miss Africa introduced in 2016) Christmas Village, traditional dances and the annual Ekpe Festival that brings in thousands of tourists. Other activities that make up this carnival include essay writing competitions, which involves both secondary school and tertiary students. These competitions are designed to promote reading culture among the youths of the State and inculcate in them the carnival culture.

Below are the festivals and the themes;


The 2013 Calabar Carnival was focused on Nigerian artists.[3]


The theme for the 2015 Calabar carnival was Climate change. According to the Cross River State former governor Ben Ayade, the carnival was host to more than 15 countries. That year, he adopted beauty queens to form a band known as the governor’s band.


Migration has a long history in Africa, as it has also been the home of many cultures for many centuries.*


The 15th edition of the carnival held in 2018. The then Governor of Cross River State Benedict Ayade introduced the theme “Africanism” to tell the African story from the African perspective. The theme was also meant to show that Africa is free from Western Colonization and no longer under their political and economic control.


The 2019 Calabar Carnival theme “Humanity” was created to challenge mankind that every human being has a right to existence. The theme was also meant to charge mankind not to be a source of pain to another person’s life. Apart from dancing and displaying the culture of the African people, the carnival aimed at addressing the world’s problems, one of which is inhumanity. As Governor Benedict Ayade flagged the year’s theme – Humanity he emphasized the need for all to shun war as it does not depict the true personalities of those who claim to love humanity.


In 2020, the Cross River State House of Assembly suspended the festival due to the COVID-19 pandemic and #EndSARS-related disruptions.


In 2021, the Cross River State Government, cancelled the Carnival Calabar Festival due to still COVID-19 pandemic.


After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the Cross River State Government announces the 2022 edition of Carnival Calabar. It aims to revitalize the state’s economy through a 32-day reloaded and participatory event, engaging both skilled and unskilled labor. Commissioners Eric Anderson and Gabe Onah shared details during a briefing in Calabar.

The 2022 Carnival Calabar theme was “Agro-Industrialization”.


Governor Bassey Otu announced last year’s theme to be “Season of Sweetness” and it is going to be his first carnival since being sworn in in May.

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