Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

A carnival in Cape Town

A carnival in Cape Town

...and other cultural events worth travelling for

...and other cultural events worth travelling for

December/January 2017

CAPE TOWN  A colourful parade
The “coloured” population of Cape Town – descendants of indigenous Africans, slaves from the Dutch East Indies and white settlers – has a distinct, Afrikaans-speaking identity. For them, ringing in the new year means a carnival. The Kaapse Klopse, held at the height of South African summer, dates from the 19th century and celebrates emancipation from slavery with a heavy influence from American minstrelsy. Today, singing troupes parade through Cape Town, waving parasols to the sounds of brass bands, choirs and the traditional ghoema drum, made from a wine vat. While the minstrel troupes remain predominantly coloured, the parade attracts onlookers of all hues who line the streets. The main parade, called Tweede Nuwe Jaar (Second New Year), traditionally takes place on January 2nd – once a rare day off for slaves – although Muslim holy days and logistical problems sometimes delay the partying by a few days.
Dec 31st-Jan 2nd 2017

LONDON  In a winter wonderland
Watching Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”, with its hero and Mouse King pirouetting among snow-laced trees, is a perennial Christmas favourite. Now Will Tuckett has transformed the classic performance into the world’s first immersive ballet. Just like Clara, the story’s protagonist who is drawn into a magical realm, the audience will be free to wander – perchance to dance – around the 20,000ft purpose-built theatre at Wembley Park, listening to “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” played live by musicians and coming face to out-stretched limb with the cast. It’s a million miles from pantomime, but, in an elevated way, it’s the people’s Christmas show.
Nov 30th-Jan 8th 2017

CALI  Dancing to Colombia’s tune
At first glance, Cali lacks the lustre of Colombia’s two largest cities, Medellín and Bogotá. Where they perch amid mountains, Cali, on the plains, is hot and gritty and less geared up for tourists. But beneath the surface, it has substance. Looking up at their rivals, the Caleños coined the catchphrase: “Cali es Cali, y lo demás es loma” (Cali is Cali, and the rest is just mountain). They have reason to be proud: Cali has a rich Afro-Colombian heritage, and salsa is its lifeblood. During the annual Feria de Cali, the city’s pulse reaches fever-pitch. Cali’s particular brand of salsa is a sight to behold: a blur of footwork and glistening skin. Thousands of performers come for the festival, rippling through a haze of smoke and lights in a Salsódromo that stretches a full mile. It’s the best time to see an under-appreciated part of Colombia and, coming on the heels of a close vote to reject a peace deal with FARC, this year the party could be wilder than ever.
Feria de Cali Dec 25th-30th

TOKYO  Take me down
Japan’s first sumo-wrestling tournament of the year is a chance to see an iconic cultural event in the flesh – and what a lot of that there is to see. Just six “grand” tournaments are held each year in Japan. From 8am to 6pm over the 15-day season a series of wrestlers, with pomaded hair and padded g-strings, seek to vanquish their opponents by forcing them out of the ring or to touch the ground with anything other than the soles of their feet. Like everything in Japan, sumo has deep roots. It has long been associated with the Shinto religion and the rituals between rounds are as mesmerising as the brief bouts. Today wrestlers live in communal training houses, where their lives are closely regulated. Grab a bento box and stay all day, or come later to see the big names in play.
Ryogoku Kokugikan Stadium, Jan 8th-22nd 2017. Tickets on sale from Dec 3rd

FLORENCE  He does it his Weiwei
Palazzo Strozzi is the latest grand edifice to be honoured with a middle finger from Ai Weiwei. A photo of his upturned digit, aimed at the Florentine palazzo, hangs alongside snaps of other gestures directed at seats of power and pomp in a retrospective occupying the entire piano nobile. Every artist exhibiting in Italy now takes up the issue of the migrant crisis; Ai does so with characteristic visual wit, attaching to the outside of the building rescue dinghies whose outlines trace exactly those of the arched windows. His most famous works are on show, including “He Xie”, his tumultuous, piled, porcelain crabs – an allusion to censorship – and “Blossom”, a memorial to China’s tragically brief, 1956 opening to its creative intellectuals. But it also includes some new Lego portraits of Renaissance geniuses who, like the artist, were deprived of their freedom of movement. Ai even manages to use the bricks to put a twinkle into Galileo’s eye.
Until Jan 22nd

Readers' comment

Sign in or Create your account to join the discussion.

dawid - November 11th 2016

Concerning the Cape Carnival, there is an error in terming people "indigenous Africans". Vegetation may be indigenous but people tend to migrate and eventually settle for a period. At the time that Dutch used the Cape as a provisioning station the population in the Cape were Khoi, Bushmen and Strandlopers. Your article failed to describe this rich heritage evident in the current population.