The making of the minstrels

How the colourful faces of the Kaapse Klopse are created

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Shamiel Salie (not pictured) adds the final touches to Tashriq Reid (17), a member of the Cape Argus District 6 Entertainers troupe. Due to the long lines, some minstrels waited three hours to get their faces completed. The actual time spent getting their faces painted is about ten minutes each.

The Cape Town Minstrel Carnival also known as ‘Tweede Nuwe Jaar’ is celebrated annually on 2 January. The colourful costumes, face paint, music and comical dancing bring this unique Cape Town event to life. Many thousands of people perform in the parade in one of city’s biggest tourist attractions.

The face painting process involves four steps. First, is the base coat, then some colour, then a brush is used to do the details, and finally glitter is added.

At Adiel Adams’s home in Athlone, minstrels from numerous teams (or troupes) start arriving from as early as 5am to get their faces painted. The Adams family have been doing this for over a decade. The work is done by Adiel, his two sons Eesa (17), Zubair (23) and Shafiek Salie.

“It’s a passion of mine. I love it and I was brought up into this,” says Adiel.

Shuaib Adams (18) gets the first layer of white paint, the base coat.
Shuaib lives in Manenberg. This will be his first performance as a minstrel. He belongs to the All Stars, a brand new troupe.
This year over 40 performers came to Adiel’s home to get their faces painted. He says this is a big drop from last year, when about 150 minstrels came by. Adiel blames the recent split between the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival Association (CTMCA) and Kaapse Klopse Karnivaal Association (KKKA) for the lack of clients.
Adiel starts to add colour to the face of Lee Tobin, a member of the Heideveld Entertainers. Adiel learnt everything he knows about face painting with an airbrush via the Internet.
Members of about seven teams come to Adiel’s home to get their faces painted. Although it is a competition, there is no tension as performers continually joke and tease each other.
Zubair Adams adds a coat of colour to the face of Jade Harrison, a member of the All Stars. Zubair has been painting faces for eight years. His mother died four few years ago. He says the face painting tradition reminds the family of her. According to Zubair’s father, he was hesitant to help at first. He was somewhat ‘forced’ said his dad with a smile. Eventually he gave in and started enjoying the tradition.
The equipment and paints used are expensive. Adiel charges kids from R50 to get their face painted and from R70 for adults. The price varies depending on whether only the face or the entire head is painted.
Shuaib gets his third coat of paint. This is more detailed so it is done by hand.
Essa Adams (17), Adiel’s youngest son, finds the painting process inspiring. Essa did art in school and has been involved with the minstrels for almost ten years.
Brandon Williams (23) from Athlone is part of the All Stars troupe. Williams plays the saxophone and is also the captain. The All Stars troupe was formed “to grow the minstrel vibe within the Athlone area,” says Williams.
Taylor Harrison (6) watches closely as members get their faces painted. Taylor is part of the All Stars.
Tashriq Reid has been a minstrel for 13 years and this will be his first year as a ‘voorloper’. This means he will be leading the team with a baton. Reid says that although he is excited, he is also nervous about being in front for the first time.
The All Stars head to the Athlone train station to meet up with the rest of the team.
From the station, they travel to perform at Red Cross Children’s Hospital, and then to Athlone Stadium.
Although this year’s ‘Tweede Nuwe Jaar’ was marred by complications, members were happy to perform and do what they love.
A troupe plays at Athlone Station.
TOPICS:  Arts and culture

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