Tweede Nuwe Jaar

Image via Flickr

Here’s why we still celebrate Tweede Nuwe Jaar in 2020

Most of us have witnessed Tweede Nuwe Jaar, but do we know the origins of this colourful tradition and why it is still celebrated today?

Tweede Nuwe Jaar

Image via Flickr

Tweede Nuwe Jaar, also known as Second New Year, is a day that is unique to Cape Town.

Tweede Nuwe Jaar stems from practices associated with slavery. In the mid-19th century, the Cape slaves were given one day off from their duties on 2 January every year to celebrate the new year in any way they saw fit.  

According to Cape Town Magazine, the festival has been moved from its usual date on 2 January to 4 January out of respect for the Islamic Jum’ah observation, which coincides with the sunset on the traditional date (a Friday). 

The minstrels are born 

During their New Year’s celebration, the slaves would dress up as minstrels and dance to the sounds of banjos, guitars, ghoema drums, whistles, trombones and tubas. 

Tweede Nuwe Jaar is essentially the celebration of a community’s survival. It illustrates the continuity between its past, present and future.

The now-deceased iconic musician Taliep Petersen is claimed to have said the following about the celebrations: “Dis onse dag” (“This is our day”). 

It is a day when this particular Cape Townian community that survived slavery, segregation and apartheid, celebrates its continued existence.

How is Tweede Nuwe Jaar celebrated today?  

On the eve of 1 January, people gather in the Bo-Kaap (Malay Quarter in Signal Hill) to await the Tweede Nuwe Jaar (2 January) with the songs of Malay choirs and ghoema drums ushering in the dawn of a new year. 

Slavery was officially abolished in the Cape on 1 December 1834. Second New Year became a celebration that united the “creole culture” in Cape Town.

It is estimated that the first carnival troupe was organised in 1887.

Tweede Nuwe Jaar celebrations for social change 

The modern celebration of Tweede Nuwe Jaar serves as a reminder of the slave past of colonial Cape Town – and the importance of music and dance to celebrate freedom. 

The Kaapse Klopse (Cape Minstrels) has played a significant role in addressing social challenges, such as crime, drug abuse and HIV/Aids. 

They also strived to build bridges between the communities after the apartheid era. Apart from providing entertainment, the Kaapse Klopse has also become a means of skills development in the community. 

The Kaapse Klopse and associated choirs give the participating children the opportunity to learn the art of performing music and dance through their practice sessions in preparation for their performances. 

These opportunities paved the way for world-famous musicians, such as Petersen and Jonathan Butler, who both received Juvenile Sentimental Trophy awards in previous Cape Minstrel competitions.