NKOLE NKOLE and VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka
GOING through international media, it was certainly an eventful New Year’s eve for most countries.
The New York Times reported that Sydney in Australia, which was among the first major cities to celebrate New Year at the stroke of midnight, did so with fireworks. The celebrations were tied to the historic same-sex marriage vote.
The Guardian UK reported that about eight tonnes of fireworks produced 100,000 pyrotechnic effects as the sky exploded in a riot of colour and light, with the centrepiece a rainbow tribute to the nation’s historic same-sex marriage vote and the upcoming 40th anniversary of Mardi Gras, also known as Shrove Tuesday.
“There was also a countdown to midnight for the first time, with fireworks forming the numerals 10 to one on the Harbour Bridge. The word Sydney then spread across the arch before a multi-coloured waterfall of fireworks cascaded down from the world-famous structure,” the British newspaper reported.
“All harbour vantage points were full two hours before the 9pm family fireworks lit up the harbour, building excitement for the main event, which cost seven million Australian dollar and lasted 12 minutes.
“The show also included a section of fireworks designed by the actor Hugh Jackman. Almost 45 percent of those watching around the harbour were international tourists. Guides are written in Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Spanish and German.”
But in Japan, people paraded in fox masks to attend the first prayer of the year at a Shinto shrine in Tokyo; in the Philippines, revellers gathered, phones in hand, at the Eastwood Mall in Manila to watch balloons and confetti rain down at midnight; in China, big pots of tea were prepared for New Year’s Eve celebrations in Beijing although it will also celebrate the Lunar New Year, in February; and in Singapore, despite the rains, New Year’s Eve celebrants sheltered under umbrellas and raincoats as fireworks sparkled overhead.
There was more.
In Malaysia, tourists donned party hats to watch fireworks in front of the famous Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur; in Indonesia, hundreds of couples got married at a mass wedding in Jakarta on New Year’s Eve; in neighbouring Tanzania, members of the Maasai tribe performed their traditional dance on Nungwi Beach on the island of Zanzibar; in London, fireworks exploded over Big Ben and the London Eye
Ferris wheel while in Allendale, England, residents carried barrels of burning tar on their heads as part of a traditional New Year’s Eve parade dating back to 1858.
But what was Zambia’s capital city, Lusaka, up to?
Public opinion seems divided on whether New Year lived up to its lustre in Lusaka or not.
“I was just indoors, there wasn’t much excitement this year, I think. I don’t know what caused it,” said a resident of Lusaka’s Kabwata township.
Well, he missed out.
For Sharon Kumesa, a resident of Foxdale, New Year’s Eve was spent at the Fire and Colour Festival, which took place at Garden City Mall in Lusaka.
Sharon should have attended the festival with other members of her family but as New Year’s Eve drew close, some of them abandoned the festival idea. She nonetheless decided to go even if it meant sitting by herself because she was not willing to pass off the opportunity to see some of her favourite local acts on a live stage.
Performing at the festival were the likes of Pompi, CrazyFish and Magg44.
However, some festival goers like Mwali Chomba drove from as far as an area called 21 Miles in Lusaka for the festival, which culminated into a stunning show of fireworks to usher in the New Year.
Six of Mwali’s friends from locations all relatively far from Garden City Mall tugged along with her to the festival.
For Thulani Jere, of Avondale, toasting to the New Year meant attending a rival festival at Lusaka’s East Park mall. This one drew a younger crowd but did not have as striking a fireworks display as the Fire and Colour festival.
While her teenage son, Thulani, joined his friends at East Park mall, Chishala Jere decided to go to church to thank God for seeing her through the year 2017.
Because of a statement from the Ministry of Health banning New Year’s Eve celebrations in Lusaka district in light of the cholera outbreak, her church service happened within a shorter period than scheduled.
“My son, Thulani, went to a festival that was happening at East Park Mall while I chose to attend church and thank God for seeing me through 2017,” Mrs Jere shared. “It was a challenging year but I made it to the end and only saw it fit to thank God for keeping me alive.”
But hundreds of people in Lusaka’s Chalala-Zesco Waterworks ushered in the New Year with some intoxicating drinks at East Point and Break Point nightclubs in Kabwata area.
Musician JK was performing at East Point, after a long time, and he must have been a big draw for most revellers.
But nearby, in Libala Stage III, Winners’ Chapel Lusaka had a crossover praise and prayer meeting with Bishop David Oyedepo of Nigeria.
It was an awesome time of praise for people like Bwalya Mukosha of Libala township who felt her time was well spent in the presence of God to make the beginning of a brand new year.
Yes, the New Year’s Eve was very busy for most people, especially Christians who opted to see the beginning of 2018 in church praising God.
They even have new themes that they picked up from their churches which they intend to run with during the year.
One of the widely shared themes on social media has been “taking over”. Whatever it means.
Unfortunately, Lusaka has no central point where firework displays happen. So, those into fireworks had to light them from wherever they were.
But it is mostly children who were into fireworks.
While they can be irritating at times, particularly to adults, there is some level of tolerance if it is on occasions like New Year.
“I don’t like them myself, but because it was New Year, I had to just to put up with them,” said Dickson Nyangu of Chilanga.
Maybe Dickson should have been in Chalala were the New Year celebrations were relatively quiet.
Most of the residents in the area preferred to be home with friends and relatives or simply a family outing.
Billy Chipopo of Chilenje and friends celebrated their beginning of 2018 at home with a barbeque and music. It was a peaceful and very clam celebration.
In fact, each year, the Chipopo family have a come-together family barbeque, an activity which has become a norm for the family.
There are not too many places one can go to in Chilanga.
A few decided to go to Tiffany’s Grand Canyon on New Year’s Eve where the children enjoyed the boat cruise. But for the majority, they were at the so-called Post Office and Bangala.
There, it is just booze.
The men in uniform welcomed 2018 in style at the Zambia Army annual ball, which was characterised by song, dance and colourful fireworks display. The guests, neatly dressed, started arriving after 19:00 hours and all of them were presented with bottles of wine before being treated to a suspicious dinner.
As the guests dined, the army orchestral choir sung some therapeutic tunes.
At 23:59 hours, the conspicuously anxious crowd started counting down to 2018 under a five-minute colourful fireworks display.
“This is the best New Year celebration ever. Look at those beautiful colours, this is memorable,” one of the youthful guests was heard exclaiming as he captured the fireworks display on his phone.
In a way, the cholera shadow that hang over Lusaka may have affected New Year celebrations but not so much for the party and prayer aficionados.
They found a way to improvise.