Khoi Khoi performance to open Cape Town Carnival

2020-03-12 16:45 - Marisa Crous
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South Africa is home to the earliest evidence of humans creating marks with meaning – found in the Blombos Cave on the Southern Cape coast. This, will be highlighted at the Cape Town Carnival (21 March 2020) when Glen Arendse of Khoi Khonnexion, opens the annual extravaganza with a collage of mystical sounds using an indigenous Khoi mouth-bow instrument.

WATCH | A glimpse behind the scenes of the Cape Town Carnival 

The San people, also known as the Bushmen, are members of various Khoisan-speaking indigenous hunter-gatherer groups that are the first nations of Southern Africa. 

“Footsteps of the First Artists”, featuring a moving float and Arendse performing with impressive stilt walkers, will open this year’s hugely popular open-air cultural spectacular, connecting participants and audience alike to our past, our future, our country and each other.

Cape Town Carnival

(PHOTO: Cape Town Carnival)

The Cape Town Carnival, which weaves song, dance and art into an all-out showcase of incredible colour, texture and sound, takes place on the evening of Human Rights Day, 21 March, on the Green Point Fan Walk. This year’s theme is a tribute to the remarkable multifaceted cultures of South Africa, in the form of an “Incredible Journey: Sounds of South Africa”. 

Giving a feeling of being steeped in a distant past, “Footsteps”, which celebrates the world’s first artists, includes a giant eland sculpture inscribed with symbols and marks suggesting the artistic expressions of the early Southern African peoples. The eland, regarded as a spirit animal by the Khoisan and extensively depicted in rock art, was believed to have special powers that helped the Khoisan reach the spirit world.

Arendse notes that Carnival will give the opportunity for him to “usher in what the eland represents”. “From out of the past we cajole it, to lead the spirit of the Carnival, to imbue and call forth what it tries to embody – to animate the spirit of the eland and make present the people of the eland,” he says. 

“A performance at a highly publicised event like Cape Town Carnival could mean, for the greater Khoi-Khoi community, being made more visible and better represented, culturally and meaningfully. It could draw attention to conscience, and inspire practical responses to issues being raised among the Khoi-Khoi and San interest groups. It’s about plotting a way forward, for a future for all, in dignity.” 

Cape Town Carnival is a free-to-watch public event. Catered for, pre-reserved seating and hospitality stands are available; tickets for these are on sale at