Pelu Awofeso writes about the making of the Lagos Carnival, which comes up on April fool’s Day

“All in all, our costumes are top of the range,” says Yemi Sule, Project Consultant for the Lagos Carnival, explaining the processes and the people that make the carnival the ‘ultimate’ in Nigeria. Yemi works with about 250 tailors and embellishers who must produce costumes for at least 10,000 participants who will take part in the carnival at the end of April.

“It’s been a nightmare meeting these targets but it’s also been a lot of fun, because on that day when the clothes are worn you’ll see that all the hard work and dedication to duty has paid off in the end. It’s something that one will be proud of,” she says in a room full of young artisans working on multi-coloured dresses.

a young artisan working on a butterfly effigy

Colours Are Us
Everywhere is stacked with bales of chiffon, taffeta, organza, china, satin, wax print and lace fabrics in various colours. “What we did go for are bright and striking colours that people would appreciate on the carnival day,” says Yemi, who was also contracted to do the same job last year. “I’ve seen quite a few costumes that have been used at other carnivals here in Nigeria and abroad; they are nice but I will stand by our own costume, because they do stand out, in terms of concept and in terms of the quality.”

As of Mid-March, 60% of the costume work had been done and Yemi is optimistic that everything necessary for the carnival would be ready for the April carnival day on April 1. “So I would say that people should come out and have fun. This is a once-in-a-year thing. It’s good to appreciate the beauty around us.”

Just a block away, Oji Thomas is busy co-ordinating the production of the headgears, backpacks and sails that will complement the costumes. His target: to produce 2,000 of the backpacks and 150 huge sails, any of which takes days to make, depending on how simple or elaborate it is. Oji’s work area is packed with carnival photographs, fibre rods and other odds and ends needed for the job at hand.

Youths at work on the carnival costumes

All in a day’s work
The previous day, he presented a complete set of backpacks and sails to the organising committee; he got a green light and that means he and his team could go ahead to mass produce for the 80 or so carnival groups to feature in this year’s event.

“So far, working on them has been a bit stressful, going by the fact that we have a set time to build everything; but this year, I can say the work is much easier to tackle because we’re making them much lighter, using aluminium pipes and sheets and fibre rods, unlike last year when we used metal pipes which were heavy,” he says.

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in waka-about print version in April 2011. It’s been slightly modified for this blog post.