early in Nigeria’s Rivers State, in the month of December, culture, opulence, and diversity collide for seven days, resulting in an explosion of colours and orgasmic rhythms that fill the city’s streets. This event is known as the Rivers State Carnival, commonly known as Carniriv. It is an annual festival that celebrates the indigenous people’s cultural history. The Carniriv is unique in that it combines two types of carnivals: the traditional, which showcases the culture of the state’s many indigenous communities, and the contemporary, which is a Caribbean-style carnival. Rivers State, often known as the “Land of a Thousand Masquerades,”put it the other, ‘Treasure base of the nation’, is a melting pot of different civilizations whose combined heritage creates a rich and exciting event.
In Rivers State, tourism is firmly entrenched in the cultural diversity and collective heritage of the local people. This opulent and diverse legacy is a magnificent amalgamation of the customs and cultural practices of the numerous ethnic groups that make up Rivers State.
To a large extent, this explains why festivals, jamborees, guided tours, and other similar physical activities are the most popular forms of tourism in Nigeria, as channeled through the people’s cultures and practices. Cultural tourism, then, appears to play an important role in the region’s story, as the people’s lives and existences are centered on the heritages of their various civilisations. Carniriv is an appropriate rallying point from a neo-modernist standpoint. The carnival franchise ‘Carniriv: The Port Harcourt Carnival’ is controlled by the Rivers State Government in Nigeria.
It is a Festival that brings together the several ethnic groups that coexist in Rivers State, a melting pot of cultures represented by 28 languages and 300 dialects. It has been defined as “a presentation of the indigenous culture of the Rivers People…in the sense that the costumes, dance, and music on display are indigenous.” It is a source of pride for the people of the state.
The festivities are attended by individuals from all over the world, despite the fact that they are based on indigenous beliefs. The festival, which has become the state’s largest tourism product and has put it on the map, is centered on foreign entertainers and tourists.
Rivers State is one of Nigeria’s Niger Delta states, having 23 Local Government Councils, 28 languages, and over 300 dialects. During the parade, representatives from the State’s 23 local government areas march through the streets of Port Harcourt, the state capital, putting on spectacular displays that may include masquerade dances. Carniriv, Africa’s largest carnival, reflects this rich diversity with cultural parades and exhibitions involving over 10,000 dancers, masquerades, puppeteers, and warriors on the streets of Port Harcourt, the country’s capital. It is a week of pulsing, frenzied fun. The carnival is, by all accounts, a true celebration of the people’s numerous old civilizations, and it advances deeper into the worldwide reckoning with each passing year. The International Heritage Parade occasionally features performers from South Africa and Malaysia.
Notable event at the Carnival includes:
The Garden City Freestyle Parade, the International Heritage Parade, and the kids’ carnival are among the parades held at the Carniriv.
- The Garden City Freestyle Parade: This takes place on the final day of the Festival, and the anticipation and excitement that builds up is unprecedented. In a contemporary modern cultural procession through the streets of Port Harcourt, glamour, flair, and pomp all mix into one exquisite creative combination. Traditionally, six bands take part in the procession, with five of them, the Jubilee, Liberation, Dynamic, Fusion, and Treasure Bands, competing fiercely for the grand prize.
- International Heritage Parade: In true carnival tradition, contingents from the 23 LGAs form a parade (on a mapped out path) through Port Harcourt’s streets, performing mesmerizing dances and masquerade shows along the way. All of these shows are staged on colourful floats adorned with famous figures. With honorary participation from Malaysia and South Africa since 2012 edition, the Heritage parade had become more international than ever before.
- Kids Carnival: This Carnival exemplifies the value placed on children in Carniriv, and hence in Rivers State’s tourism development. The Children’s Carnival will take the form of a mini-procession, beginning at the Elekahia play-ground and ending at the Liberation Stadium, Elekahia, where children will be treated to a carnival full of fun, refreshment, leisure, and unrestrained entertainment, befitting of an ice-breaker event in advance of the Grand Opening.
It has been compared to Carnaval do Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro Carnival) in Brazil and the Trinidad and Tobago event for its flash of colour, extravagant costumes, and expansiveness. It was founded in 1988 and is one of the country’s newest cultural festivals, but it has quickly evolved to become one of the most well-known. But, in terms of street carnival, Carniriv has become Nigeria’s oldest carnival. Carniriv ‘88, in particular, had a striking resemblance to the most important contemporary modern Festivals of the time and was also a first of its kind in Nigeria.
Carniriv is commonly regarded as the most exportable tourism currency in Rivers State. The Rivers State Tourism Development Agency (RSTDA) was established in 2012 with the goal of putting this carnival on the global tourism map. The event takes place in December and includes both local and international artists.