Dancers. Colorful Costumes. Full Feather in 5-Day Brazilian Carnival. Enjoy!

Published March 3rd, 2019 - 08:52 GMT
(AFP/ File Photo)
(AFP/ File Photo)

Dancers showed off their vibrant costumes in a dramatic show of sequins, feathers and face paint on the day two of the five-day carnival in Brazil on Saturday.

Dressed in intricate ensembles with matching headpieces, coordinating killer heels and outlandish hair and make-up to match, the carnival queens took to the streets of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo to take part in the festivities.

Alongside members of multiple parades representing different parts of the annual extravaganza, men and women could be seen partaking in an array of fascinating dances and performances.

Hundreds of thousands of revelers descended on the city to witness the famous festival, which marks the start of lent.

This year's event is the first such celebration since Jair Bolsonaro took office, and it is expected that the festival will target the far-right president known for offending the LGBT community and minorities.

At Carmelitas, one of Rio's most traditional street parties, revelers sang along to a samba song titled: 'Blue or pink, it's all the same,' a reference to Bolsonaro's human rights minister, Damares Alves, who declared: 'It's a new era in Brazil, boys wear blue and girls wear pink,' soon after she took up her post.

'This parade is an act of resistance to the oppressive new government,' said Monica Machado, a percussion player in the band.

The song's lyrics went, 'On the train of history, we can't go in reverse,' a reference to the Brazilian president's open admiration of Brazil's 1964-1985 military dictatorship.

Bolsonaro has famously said he would rather have a dead son than a gay son and that police who kill criminals should be given medals not prison sentences.

Several party-goers' costumes targeted an early corruption scandal in the Bolsonaro government.

Vinicius Alves, a university student, wore all orange with a headband adorned with fake money and orange slices, a nod to the Brazilian expression 'orange employee,' which refers to politicians' use of ghost employees to launder money.

Just three weeks into Bolsonaro's government, questions were raised about suspicious payments to his son's and wife's bank accounts from his son's driver, who many suspect was an 'orange employee.'

'(The driver) has been called to court several times and never showed up, so I'm demanding answers this Carnival,' Alves said. 'Carnival is resistance, samba is resistance.'

In the lead up to the party, one group of revelers wrote a Carnival jingle that went viral. Its lyrics read, 'Mommy, I'm going to buy a gun, Bolsonaro's already made it easier, I'm going to shoot all the communists.'

At the official samba competition in Rio, one top samba school said its reaction to Brazil's sharp turn to the right was a parade dedicated to untold parts of Brazil's history.

'The Bolsonaro vote is linked to education,' explained Deivid Domenico, the co-author of the song. 'The people of Brazil don't know its history, its roots, its identity. This is why I think telling that history is important.'

Rio's evangelical bishop-turned-mayor, Marcelo Crivella, came under fire on the party's first day for skirting his duty to kick off the celebrations by handing over the key of the city to the king of Carnival for the third consecutive year.

He told reporters that he would be turning in the keys to Carnival, not the keys to the city as is tradition.

'It's very disrespectful. I'm trying to understand why they wouldn't want to participate in this ceremony,' said Mauricio de Jesus, the president of the cultural center where the key is held.

The evangelical Crivella has made negative comments about African-rooted religions, which many Brazilians practice and have great cultural influence on Carnival celebrations.

'This is disrespectful to the black population, to the black community, to our roots,' de Jesus said.

The word 'carnival' originates from the Portuguese 'Carne Vale' meaning 'farewell to meat' and refers to the Christian period of abstinence, otherwise known as Lent.

The Rio Carnival typically starts a week before Ash Wednesday with parties beginning in December, despite being heavily influenced by European and African traditions today.

The first Rio Carnival was held in the 1640s in honour of the Greek wine gods and saw the Romans organise events to celebrate Saturnalia and Bacchus.

The Roman Catholic Church then established the basic traditions and the festival 'Entrudo' was introduced by the Portuguese.

In 1840, the first masquerade carnival took place where many danced to the polka and waltz, being influenced by carnivals in Italy. This then evolved into samba in 1917, which was influenced by African culture.

While the masquerade aspect of the carnival is derived from Italy, African culture also influenced the Rio Carnival costumes which are made of feathers, grass and bones.

The samba is now considered traditional Brazilian music and from the nineteenth century, neighbourhoods got caught up in the party spirit with percussionists and drummers helping the locals celebrate every year.

Today, a samba school, or a group of neighbours with a similar background wanting to attend together, will introduce the school during the parade and present their 'theme' with elaborate costumes and adorned floats.

There are approximately 200 samba schools that attend the carnival each year and they are divided into five divisions.

Rio Carnival is considered one of the biggest carnivals in the world with more than 2 million people taking to the streets of the Brazilian city every day for a week.

This article has been adapted from its original source. 

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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