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Nissa la Bella? Nissa Rebella.

With a first mention in 1294, the Carnaval de Nice is the oldest carnaval on written record.

But it can barely be seen behind the 2.5 meter tall black walls that surround the festive fortress.


It’s a beautiful carnaval, and from the 17th of February to the 3rd of March 2024, over two hundred thousand people came to watch the festivities - But that’s the problem; “We want to party, not watch the party”. And even though a large part of the carnaval is fuelled by public funds, entrance fees start at 14 euros to stand on the sidelines and 28 euros to sit in tribunes -whether you’re a local or a tourist. You’ll find many people attempting to catch a glimpse through gaps in the walls that surround the parade route. “This is not carnaval, it’s a capitalist spectacle” are words murmured in the streets.


In 2012, the (free) street parties were outlawed, and today the carnaval spirit of the niçois seems to only live within a sense of nostalgia. The subject comes back to the forefront every year; “The carnaval spirit is no longer here. You pay to sit still and watch the parade go by, all to a cacophony of simultaneous bands playing each to their own rhythm, while a DJ blasts anthem after anthem.” This year’s theme was Pop Culture. The irony couldn’t be greater, as the niçois feel to have been robbed of their biggest popular festival, which has been preyed upon by commercial motivations. For many, Nice’s carnival has been replaced by a mere spectacle for entertainment (especially aimed at tourists) and been dispossessed of a meaningful expression of community identity and solidarity.


But one neighbourhood never put down its arms and still tends to the tinders of their traditions, keeping the carnavalesque flame alive.

For over 30 years, the San Ròc (Saint Roch) quarter in the northeast of Nice has continuously gathered people from all walks of life. In their hundreds, they form the independent carnaval of San Ròc. “Carnaval is about doing, not spectating”. Armed with costumes, confetti, drums, and lots, lots of flour; they slither through the streets bringing colour and catharsis to the city of Nice. It grows bigger every year, and brings warmth to the hearts of the niçois - especially the old generations that have known the carnaval of old. Like many independent carnavals found throughout France, the carnaval de San Ròc also upholds subtle notes of resistance tied to the region’s will of auto-determination, the reclaiming of its local dialect, of its traditions and the city’s public space.


Nissa La Bella? - Nissa Rebella. These words form the chants that resonate and harmonise in the name of the Pantaï spirit, which amongst many things, means to delude, to fantasise, to dream, and refers to the semantic field of imagination and creativity.

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