carnaval affiche


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Sunday 27th April is Slavery Abolition Day in Mayotte. This is usually commemorated by a carnival, comprising various dances, an exhibition of some sort at the Tourist Office and possibly another event.

On Saturday, something was planned to start at half past three. Nothing was said about what was to happen, just that there would be something in the Republic Square of Mamoudzou. I invited a friend along and showed up in time to see a wonderful Mahorese corrida.

In a Spanish corrida, the bull is dominant and fierce-looking, he's vicious and trained to fight. The picadors prick him, then the matador comes along in his shiny clothes, plays with him for a bit then puts him to death. He can be rewarded with the ears or the tail if he was good.

In a Mahorese corrida, the zebu is taken to a post where she is tied up for the next half hour. Meanwhile, people sing, play percussion on a used washing-machine drum and dance in a long line. Then, the men, who are all wearing black trousers and white shirts and carrying a red scarf, line up behind the zebu. The zebu is released and runs as fast as she can in the opposite direction, mainly to get away from the noise and to have something to eat in the nice grassy bit behind the dancers. As she has a long rope trailing behind her, the men run after her, catch up the rope and have a tug-of-war with her to try to reel her in and get her to chase them.

Saturday's zebu did not particularly want to do that. In fact, she didn't seem that interested in the whole proceeding. Many tugs-of-war ensued. Several times, while she was tied up, people danced around her and waved their red scarves in her face. One man even hung his red scarf around her horns. She couldn't care less.

For two hours, the group alternated between freeing the zebu and chasing after her, and dancing in a line. The event is called ngoma ya nyombe, or tam-tam boeuf.


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The First Zebu Chase

Uninterested Zebu

Motivated Zebu

The Second Zebu Chase