Johannesburg - Thursday night bore witness to what has to be one of the most talked-about socials on the Joburg scene so far this year. Afropunk, the ruthlessly hip and pretty damn woke US music festival and publication, launched in South Africa.
Held at the Women’s Jail at Constitution Hill on a temperate autumn night, the launch saw the cream of the country’s indie arts and culture scene congregate to eat, drink, make merry and find out the line-up of the two-day Afropunk Fest that will take place on 30 and 31 December, also at Constitution Hill.
The Afropunk Fest started in the US 14 years ago and defined itself as a haven for people of all races, genders, colours, creeds and tastes. South Africans interested in black culture have been on its website for years, and its festival has seen iterations in New York, Atlanta, London and Paris.
“The move to Johannesburg is a natural fit, in line with Afropunk’s desire to make connections throughout the diaspora, creating bonds between those with a shared mind-set,” says the festival’s press release.
While superbly dressed guests dined on some of the best canapés I have ever spotted passing me on a tray in this town (think tangy fried plantain skewers on scrumptious slithers of fried fish), journalists snapped photos of actor Maps Maponyane, DJ Doowap, writer Bongani Madonda, TV personality Claire Mawisa, musician Nakhane Touré and celebrated activist and photographer Zanele Muholi.
Later, guests settled at candle-lit tables to tuck in to pap, relish and braai meat while Sal Masekela (yep, muso Hugh Masekela’s son) announced the festival line-up. It includes premium local artists – among them Thandiswa Mazwai, fondly known as King Tha, versus The Blk Jks; The Brother Moves On; Nakhane Touré; Spoek Mathambo; and Nonku Phiri – alongside international stars such as Solange Knowles, Anderson .Paak and Laura Mvula.
As guests finished off their meals with some macaroons and took advantage of the open bar, Sowetan punk rockers TCIYF, digital maskandi star Mashayabhuqe KaMamba, King Tha with The Blk Jks, and later, DJ Doowap took to the stage.
While TCIYF delightfully shocked guests with their noisy punk renditions, it was Mazwai who stole the show with her powerful and soulful tunes. In the middle of her set, she also proclaimed her support for the #MenAreTrash hashtag that had been trending that day on Twitter, saying: “If you’re a man offended by the #MenAreTrash hashtag, maybe you’re the problem.”
The hashtag circulated after the shocking discovery of Karabo Mokoena’s burnt body, alongside condemnation of escalating rape and violence against women in South Africa.
The night was a celebration of blackness in all its forms. That it took place against the backdrop of a prison that had once held thousands for trying to live freely as black people in this country, made it all the more mesmerising.
Tickets for Afropunk Fest Joburg are now available, priced from R400 to R900, at webtickets.co.za