Carnival wars! First they snubbed their neighbour’s carnival for two years running, then they announced they wanted to join next year’s party, and now they’ve dropped the bombshell: they’ll hold their own rival event.
After persistent rumours that something of the kind was afoot, the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA) confirmed on 25th May that it would be holding the Carnaval Iles Vanille in Flic en Flac, on the country’s west coast. SN understands that it will take place on 1 July as part of a so-called island-wide ‘Shopping Fiesta’ that will run from 29th June to 5th August.
Five hundred Mauritian participants are expected, plus 50 from overseas, including some from the Carnaval de Paris and 30 samba dancers from Rio Carnival. Participation from the Indian Ocean region will include groups from Mauritius’ ‘sister island’ of La Réunion, Seychelles and Rodrigues (the latter is actually part of Mauritius). Miss Mauritius, Miss Réunion (who lit up Victoria in March) and Miss Brazil are also going to grace the show, we’re told.
To “celebrate the diversity of Mauritian culture”, MTPA promises a fusion of music and dance from India and Africa, Mauritian séga, techno and jazz, plus jugglers, fire-eaters, a Chinese cultural troupe and displays representing the heritage of Mauritius. It’s unclear at the moment how the Disney characters, clowns and Miss England (bizarrely sponsored this year by the MTPA!) will help visitors “discover the values that are inscribed on the heart of the Mauritian nation”.
What is certain is that the move has provoked more controversy than enthusiasm. Comments in the region’s media have referred to Mauritius “plagiarising” Seychelles’ successful carnival and some are predicting a fiasco rather than a fiesta at the Mauritian taxpayers’ expense.
The response from Indian Ocean neighbour Seychelles has been one of disbelief that Mauritius – a leading light in the region’s ‘Vanilla Islands’ tourism marketing alliance – is really going ahead with what appears to be either a competitor event or a spoiler. Nevertheless, Seychelles’ tourism minister Alain St Ange told Soca News: “Seychelles remains a team player and a believer in the spirit of togetherness”. He continued: “Seychelles believes that the islands of the Indian Ocean can do more to make the ‘Vanilla Islands’ region more known throughout the world”. But, St Ange emphasised, this should be by “developing new events, not just replicating events already taking place in the region”.
The short notice makes it unlikely that Mauritius will be able to reap the same rewards in increased visitor numbers and positive publicity that Seychelles has gained from its well-conceived and well-prepared Carnaval International de Victoria. It certainly will gain little from the carnival’s dedicated website (www.carnavalilesvanille.com), which, apart from some stock images of samba dancers, contained only Latin-style text when SN accessed it on 28th May. A day later it had gained a short summary in English and the wrong date for the event – 1st June instead of 1st July!
MTPA was unable to provide more information about the carnival route, times and participants, but Soca News hopes to bring you these details before the event takes place. Indian Ocean carnivals are like buses – you wait hundreds of years for one and then two turn up at the same time!