A Christmas Carnival: The African Pride – feel the joy of the season. Happy reading
A Christmas Carnival: The African Pride
Christmas always came every year on dry harmattan mornings; the freezing dry foggy air always left him with dried and cracked lips and no choice but to keep wetting his lips with warm saliva. The dry windy desert air that cracked their lips blew dust over his rooftop again as he hurriedly walked to his car to take cover.
Dr. Otuekong Ita watched with sheer amazement as the wind twirled the guava leaves, scattering them around the compound. The twirling leaves had looked to him like a madman doing his demon dance. He let out a long sinister laugh at his imagination as he remembered last year’s Christmas party at the Edwin’s. He partially closed his eyelids as the vivid images of lovely bright smiles plastered on beautiful faces like well-painted walls crossed his imagery. He could feel the warm friendly hugs from the women and the firm shoulder pats from the men in attendance. Their kind gestures and sincere display of love had gone straight to his heart, filling up the void that his longing to go home had created.
Dr. Otuekong Ita remembered vividly that Christmas had fallen on a weekend and by six O. Clock that evening. New York City in the U.S. was already getting set for their Christmas nightlife as guests of the Nigerian extraction decked in flamboyant traditional native attires started trooping into the residence of the late Ambassador Edwin Ogbu for a Christmas dinner party. The calibre of guests in attendance clearly indicated the importance of this celebration.
Guests from all parts of Nigeria were present; it was more like a Nigerians-in-the-diaspora reunion. There were varieties of delicious tasty Nigerian foods on display, including the popular Igbo ofe Nsala and Akpu, the Yoruba Amala and Efo Riro, the Hausa foods like Tuwo and Tushe, and even the Ibibio Ekpang Nkukwo, wasn’t exempted. They all ate to their fill of the delicious dinner, and all left the dinner table satisfied, except for Dr. Otuekong Ita.
He had had an awesome experience at the Edwin’s, tasted every food on the menu, and even made new friends. However, it wasn’t enough. He knew there was more to Christmas than just food and jazz.
Christmas was a very special season to him; it was a season to show love, give love, reflect on the events of the year ending, and most importantly, it was a season to feel and see the spirit of traditional art and culture on display. He had had a nice Christmas nightlife at the Ambassador’s Christmas party; it had been a blast. He hadn’t imagined it to be so much fun.
But it was still incomplete without the Calabar Christmas carnival: A Christmas street party usually held every Christmas at the Cross River State of Nigeria and popularly referred to as the African Pride. He hadn’t felt the thrill, the one that made endorphins rush through his bloodstream.
He was certain that nothing could beat his experience. So, before the guests finally left that night, he’d taken it upon himself to give them an unwritten invitation to a nice fun-filled new Christmas experience in this year’s Calabar street carnival. He was certain they’ll enjoy experiencing the various interesting activities that were sure to be on display – from the great fashion shows to boat regattas, balls, and lovely street dinners. He also told them that there would be performances by various bands in colourful costumes and masquerades.
Dr. Ita’s phone buzzed in his side pocket, bringing him back to the present. He pulled it out of his pocket and clicked the green answer button. “Hello!” he called out, checking his caller’s ID. His expression instantly changed to that of a happy kid who had just got Christmas candy. “Where exactly?” He asked, gunning his engine as he rode out in excitement to Margaret Ekpo International airport.
His heart was pounding erratically in his chest as he arrived at the airport. He strolled carefully to the exit terminal hoping to God he looked presentable enough. The closer he approached the terminal, the louder his heart pounded in his rib cage. He has never felt this way before. . .was it because Toni was here?
Mrs. Adejare, the woman with the Eagle’s eyes, was the first to see him. “Dr. Ekong.“ She called out, running to him. He ran in her direction at the speed of light and caught her midway.
“Oh! My goodness, Mama Eagle, Welcome to Calabar, the state where art lives.” Dr. Otuekong said to her, freeing himself from her bear hug. She had always treated him like a mother from their first meeting. But right now, he was a little embarrassed by her display of emotions before the men. He was mostly embarrassed because of the presence of his long-time crush, Miss Anthonia Barrington, a seasoned writer and journalist from New York City, who had always rejected his advances.
“Welcome to Calabar,” he said to them with a wide grin on his face.
“Thank you.” Mrs. Adejare grinned.
“I’m really excited.” Alhaji Musa said.
“I have heard a lot about this street carnival,” Chief Ikedieze said. “I was told it’s the biggest in Africa.”
“Yes, it is!” Dr. Otuekong said, grinning proudly.
“Thanks for inviting me,” Miss. Barrington said with a bored expression on her face. “I came with my camera.”
“You are welcome, Toni!” Dr. Otuekong said stiffly, smiling at the tall slender white woman in front of him as the cold breeze blew her long blonde hair over her face. He liked her a lot.
They dumped their pieces of luggage into the car’s trunk and boarded the sleek 2019 model Benz in front of them. Dr. Otuekong drove the crew from the airport straight to his house at Akamoa Akpabuyo to rest, and by evening, they were out on their way to the carnival.
“Are we ready?” Dr. Otuekong asked with great excitement.
“Yes, we are.” The men in the group chorused in excitement as they lurched forward.
“I’m anticipating a blast.” Toni Barrington announced in high spirits showcasing her new camera.
“It would sure beat your imagination,” Dr. Otuekong said. ‘I hope we all know it’s a week-long event?”
“Yes, we do.“ They chorused.
“You needed to have seen Toni’s initial backpack.” Alhaji Musa taunted.
“You’d better not go there!” Toni said with her right hand raised in the air.
They all laughed about it as they boarded the yellow cab that had just halted before them, and before long, they were in the busy streets of Calabar. The streets of Calabar were buzzing; it was full of life, colour, and lots of people. Hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions were in attendance.
The colourful fireworks were booming loud in the dark blue sky, giving off embers of red and splinters of other different colours. Anthonia Barrington was speechless and beyond surprised at the excellent display of art. She had never seen so much African art in her entire existence.
“This must be a great revenue-making venture for Calabarian’s.”
“You can bet on that,” Dr. Otuekong said.
“The theme for this year’s Carnival is “Climate Change.” Dr. Otuekong explained further.
“Wow!” Mr. Ikedieze exclaimed. “That explains why the various bands have costumes and presentations inscribed with that theme. It’s beautiful.”
They thronged among the large crowd of people in search of seats and finally found some empty chairs close to the podium arena and settled into them, relaxing into their seats. The main carnival kicked off with the Biker’s festival.
“This is the first time a separate day was fixed for bikers, and the theme is “Hot Wheelz.” Dr. Otuekong informed them as they sat down to watch.
It was a display of several professional bikers from all over the world. They did a parade with several stunt performances, jaw-dropping and risky moves.
“These bikers are complete show-offs when they are gathered this way in the show.” Someone said behind them, and they all nodded in agreement.
“The Governor Ben Ayade had announced that including the biker’s festival was an economic move, as he knew that this would attract lots of foreign bikers and bike lovers into Calabar.’” Dr. Otuekong explained again.
“I agree with him on that. He was right, as there are lots of foreign visitor present.” Mrs. Adejare, the usually quiet one among them, chirped in.
They anxiously watched the show, relaxing with locally made steaks(Nigeria Suya meat) and soft drinks to step down, and retired back home to Dr. Otuekong’s home to rest.
The second day of the carnival was for the main event and street parade – also known as the largest street party in Africa.
The Carnival took the whole day, starting from about 7 am till 3 pm, and covered more than 30km, which is almost the whole of Calabar. Dr. Otuekong’s companions were overjoyed, and Miss. Barrington never stopped taking pictures.
“Don’t you think you’ve taken enough?” Mrs. Adejare chided her.
“They are never enough.” She replied with a wicked grin on her face.
There were six bands; five competing bands and the Governor’s band, which included Nigerian celebrities, actors, musicians, and other notable people. The competing bands were the Bayside, Seagull, Passion 4, Masta Blasta, and Freedom bands.
“Do you know that each year, these bands follow the theme of the year and stand to win millions if they emerge as the best band?” Dr. Otuekong asked.
“Really?” Mrs. Adejare asked.
He was glad she was intrigued. “Yes. Passion 4 won last year, taking the title from Masta Blasta, the defending champions; they had won the competition for 3 years consecutively from 2012.”
He explained. Watching in disappointment as Miss. Barrington rushed to take a photo of a traditional artefact she just saw. He frowned sadly in worry. She had not given him much attention since she arrived.
The carnival lasted till evening, and in the evening after the parade, everyone gathered at the stadium. All the bands had special performances, with displays and special sessions for the king and queen of each band. His guests were thrilled beyond imagination, and he was glad they showed up.
There were also international performances from different countries like Brazil, Italy, Belize, Kenya, etc. Various musical acts such as Patoranking, P-Square, and many more thrilled the audience. They went home property drained that night, too exhausted to have dinner before they went to bed.
Miss Barrington was dancing on the street close to the stadium the next day swaying her waist from side to side in a very funny way as the trio joined her in parody. They kept dancing the Afro-beat jamz that filled the air until Old Mrs. Adejare collapsed, almost hitting the ground before Dr. Otuekong caught her mid-air.
“Mama. . . Mama!” He called out in panic to no avail. With the help of his other guest, they were able to rush her home. After checking her pulse and conducting a test, Dr. Otuekong called the attention of his crew to the issue at hand.
“Hey, guys! There is no need to panic; she just needs rest and lots of vitamins. She passed out as a result of low blood glucose.”
“Oh! I see” Toni exclaimed, holding Mrs. Adejare’s hand in between her palms as she gently squeezed.
The men nodded in agreement.
The crew suspended their outing for the next two days until Mrs. Adejare was fit to go out again.
Luckily for them, the carnival was still on by the time Mrs. Adejare got well. On the last day, several events were held at the stadium, the cultural centre, and some other places around town, and they were thrilled to see the ikon Masquerade dance on display.
The festival officially came to a close, leaving people excited as they hurried to find their way out of the arena.
“No Calabar carnival is ever like the previous.” Dr. Otuekong announced, throwing his hands in the air in excitement as he remembered how much fun they’d had.
It was a memorable Christmas experience for him and his friends. An experience they’ll never forget. They were all grinning from ear to ear as they recounted the events of the past few days in Calabar. They were particularly thrilled about how they’d all followed the masquerades around, dashing out Naira notes.
“Remember the way Toni parodied the Abang dancers?” Alhaji Musa asked bursting out into laughter. The trio joined him and laughed the indifferent Toni to scorn.
“That’s enough!” Dr. Otuekong said. “We have got to go.” They slowly walked down the busy street, colliding with happy-looking families in a bid to leave the venue, grinning from ear to ear with wide grins on their faces.
Miss. Barrington suddenly stopped in her track.
“What now?” Dr. Otuekong asked in a panic.
“Nothing much,” she said with a straight face.
“I just want to announce that I would be attending the carnival again next year with Social Tours from the states.” Miss. Barrington said grinning.
“Me, too.” The trio chorused excitedly as if on cue.
The loudest fireworks they had ever heard in the carnival suddenly erupted, resonating loud booms in the sky with colorful happy new year inscriptions in view. Everyone around the stadium instantly began to scream happy new year at the top of their voices.
Dr. Otuekong quietly walked up to Miss. Barrington and immediately grabbed her from behind, caging her in his warm embrace as his hands tightened around her waist, pulling her closer. She shivered as he slowly brought his lips to her earlobe and whispered into her ear. “Let’s make the rest of our lives like Christmas!