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Costuming for African values: a reassessment of un-African ideals in Calabar carnival

Rowland C. Amaefula
Bernard Eze-Orji


It is a truism that indigenous theatre performances are an expression of the culture of their host community. Like a trademark, the culture on display is an irremovable part of the communal identity. However, as the community makes contact with other cultures, they adopt, adapt and appropriate such cultures to suit theirs without mortgaging their values. This is the case of carnival arts in Nigeria. The Calabar Carnival – a brainchild of the Donald Duke administration in Cross River state of Nigeria – emerged on the Nigerian performance space in the eve of the millennium. Being a performance that thrives on exhibition of culture and parade of outfits, costume becomes of the essence. The thrust of this research, therefore, is to examine the costumes used in Calabar Carnival parade. Employing the qualitative methodology, it was observed that certain costume patterns of the performers violate African values. Much as the carnival art is an imported brand of entertainment, the injection of nudity in the art is un-African. Thus, this study emphasizes the need to adapt all imported cultures to suit the beliefs and attitudes of the host community. Foreigners who perform in the Calabar Carnival, for example, should be costumed to reflect the culture of the Cross Riverians. By so doing, African values would be deepened and exported to the global stage.