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Dreams of Rio animate Ivory Coast’s Popo Carnival

MEN beating drums and blowing ox horns sounded the arrival of the king of Ivory Coast’s Aboure people, who waved as hundreds of onlookers lined the roadside and sat on the roofs of buildings to catch a glimpse.

Wearing a gold crown and a long patterned robe, the king was taking part in a parade at the Popo Carnival, a cultural festival held every year that organisers say attracts more than a million people over two weeks.

The event already draws some visitors from Europe and the United States, and some locals hope it could get even bigger.

“It’s our dream that one day our children and our grandchildren could transform this carnival into the carnival of Rio de Janeiro,” said Joseph Yao Ambo, one of the festival commissioners.

The Aboure are one of many ethnic groups in the West African country, some of which still have kings and queens that play a traditional role in their communities. The Aboure king acts as the chief of seven villages.

Popo means “mask” in the Aboure language.

People walk at the entrance of the Popo Carnival village in Bonoua, Ivory Coast April 30, 2022. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

“It’s a period of evaluation to see if we haven’t lost anything our parents left us,” said Jean Oba, honorary commissioner of the festival, which is held in Bonoua, about 50 km east of Ivory Coast’s main city Abidjan.

The carnival includes a football match, a beauty contest and theatrical performances, all culminating in a grand parade.

Along with the king and his entourage, the procession includes brass bands, masked dance troupes, colourfully decorated floats, groups of young men disguised as women and groups of young mothers.

By The African Mirror

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