On the 30th-1st Afropunk was happening at Constitutional Hill in Hillbrow, Johannesburg.
Afropunk is a black driven movement created 13 years ago to provide an environment for black rebels of society. Using the terms rebel very loosely because being proudly black is an offence to society post-modern and modern time. The event was a safe space for the attendees to have a sense of belonging and community to lean on during the festival.
Fast forward to today Afropunk has international prominence from Brooklyn, Atlanta, Brazil, London, all the way to our very African soil Joburg.
Afropunk as it is known today is a culture and movement that empowers the youth through talks, music (major factor), style, food, art and the best of all the spirit of acceptance and tolerance to all around. The movement has given creatives a space to have a sense of belonging and alongside the ability to be expressive without limitations or judgement.
Celebrating its third festival in Joburg, Afropunk had the first biggest QUEER Championship Ball to date. Hosted by the drag queen Treyvone Moo who is known for challenging the “norm” and idea of gender with a panel of four judges which featured our very own internationally acclaimed actor and musician Nakhane Toure and Tutu Zondo-Rurale creative director of The OTA Project.
A line up filled with the best of local and international talent like the BET award winning Sho Madjozi who lost her sister recently and her performance at Afropunk was part of her healing process said “many times as people we go through things thinking we are alone until you come out”. Alongside acts such as the London female singer song writer Nao, Goldlink, Masego, Miguel and Solange who gave a breath-taking performance to the audience as it was also her first time performing in South Africa.
With the new generation of multicultural and diverse individuals, as African black people, we all grow up going to church to transcend into the New Year with praise, worship and prayer for what’s to come and coming to terms with the year that is ending. In addition, some went to visit family for lunch parties and light fireworks as an act of letting go of the past and welcoming the new year.
The pending question for all the attendees was “why choose to be at a festival on New Year’s Eve instead of being at church or being with family”. Some people honestly had no attachment between their spirituality, family and the event; they just came to have a good time.
On the other hand a majority felt every spirit that came to Afropunk was family in terms of the energy they carried and omitted. The oneness in frequency made the entire space feel like family and at home. “It is the kind of family that thinks like me, looks like me, and interested in the same issues that chew at me in the ‘normal’ society” said one of the fest attenders. There are a lot of families that reject individuals that identify as part of the LGBTQI community.
The consciousness of being a people that understands the worth of art and most importantly the worth of living as the best version of yourself without feeling bad about it and being ostracized for it was furthermore one of the reasons people choose this event over all the other things New Year traditions we have in South Africa. In the normal world we hardly come across a woman wearing their heart on their sleeves topless and confronting the rape and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana.
Another amazing element of the creative space in Johannesburg is the interconnectivity creatives have as an industry. People can be in a space such as Afropunk but at the same time set up a meeting for a business venture that aligns with personalities and values unlike any other industry. This was one of the reasons that brought the creative masses to Constitutional Hill.
One person said “it’s an opportunity to celebrate our differences and similarities as Africans, and even though most people are against the movement, we need to conscientize others about the difference living in your own merit makes”. With the Xenophobia that rose in 2019 it is imperative that we learn that violence is not a solution to any matter.
The overall ambiance of the festival was that with all the difference they came with, from different back grounds, ethic groups, difference taste of music, food, art language you name it. Everyone came with the intention to be in good spirit and leave all negativity aside.
By Hengiwe Lesedi