Organizers of Côte d’Ivoire’s annual Popo Carnival have big ambitions. They hope it can grow to rival Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, considered the biggest such event in the world.
The Rio carnival attracts 2 million people each year. The Popo Carnival, organizers say, now attracts more than a million people each year from around the world. It takes place in Bonoua, about 50 kilometers east of Côte d’Ivoire’s economic capital of Abidjan.
The festival is a celebration of the Aboure tribe, one of many ethnic groups in the West African country. Some of the groups, including the Aboure, still have kings and queens that play a traditional role in their communities. Popo means “mask” in the Aboure language, and people wear masks during parts of the festival.
The Aboure king acts as the chief of seven villages. The high point of the carnival is a parade featuring the arrival of the king, who wears a gold crown and a long robe. He is accompanied by men beating drums and blowing ox horns, Reuters reports.
The carnival also includes a football match, sports days, cooking competitions, a beauty contest and several theatrical performances. The performances are intended to keep the heritage of the Aboure people alive and remind them of what they have gained or lost.
“It’s a period of evaluation to see if we haven’t lost anything our parents left us,” Jean Oba, honorary commissioner of the festival, told Reuters.