The Olympics are underway in the carnival city of Rio. Rio de Janeiro’s carnival is the world’s largest, with some two million people taking part each day, designing and creating outrageous costumes and performing to the sound of samba music. Over the years communities across south Wales have recreated the atmosphere of Rio on the streets of their own cities, towns and villages, many with the help of South Wales Inter-Cultural Arts (SWICA).
SWICA were Wales’ leading Carnival Arts experts. The organisation was established in 1990 and introduced carnival arts and samba percussion at community venues across Cardiff. From these roots sprang Cardiff Carnival and Samba Galez, Wales’ original Latin percussion community group.
Cardiff Carnival began in 1990 as the Cardiff MAS Carnival. MAS (a shortening of ‘masquerade’) is the word given to the hi-energy populist form of carnival characterised by outlandish design and imaginative creativity and which originated in the Caribbean. SWICA organised the annual Cardiff Carnival from its inception in 1990 until 2015. Their flagship performance group the Carnival Crew performed regularly throughout Wales.
SWICA was also involved in the organisation of Swansea Carnival and other major parades including the National St David’s Day Parade in Cardiff, Olympic and Paralympic Torch Relays, Carnival No. 6 at Festival No. 6, Christmas Parades in the Valleys and more. They worked throughout the year on participatory and celebratory projects big and small, in schools and community centres, offering a tailor made range of performances and workshops related to carnival and inspiring and helping local communities to celebrate themselves.
SWICA Carnival closed in November 2015 when their funding ceased, but their records have been preserved at Glamorgan Archives. These include a vast collection of photographs of the events they organised, including the Cardiff MAS Carnival, Swansea MAS Carnival, and carnivals at Porth, Blaenavon, Barry, Caerphilly, Llantrisant, Rhymney and Gurnos, Merthyr Tydfil.