Johannesburg will in December join New York, Atlanta, London and Paris as cities hosting global Afropunk events, the organisers said on Friday.
The first batch of performers for the inaugural festival, on December 30-31, was announced by Sal Masekela at an event at Constitution Hill’s Women’s Jail on Thursday. The event will be “two nights of music, style, art and food” on the city’s Constitution Hill.
The site of the notorious Old Fort Prison Complex – where violent criminals and political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, were held side by side, as well as of the country’s Constitutional Court – is a powerful choice of venue.
Dawn Robertson, chief executive of Constitution Hill, was quoted as saying this place of injustice, brutality and the violation of human rights as well as of solidarity and democracy for all South Africans is a “most fitting home for Afropunk”.
The statement described the Afropunk Festival – the first of which was held Brooklyn, in New York, 14 years ago – as a “musical institution, defining culture in the music world for more than 14 years, a triumph of multiculturalism and diversity for people of all races, genders, colours, creeds and tastes”.
Johannesburg is seen as a “natural fit” considering Afropunk’s “desire to make connections throughout the diaspora”.
“The Afropunk mindset is less concerned with genres and pigeonholes, than the strength and unity of otherness. Modern South Africa is proof of the victory of otherness over historical precedent, and of the country’s desire to mould a society based on virtues that are at the core of Afropunk,” the statement added.
“We are excited about collaborating with South African artists, audiences and service providers in a similar way as we do in America and in Europe, as we establish Afropunk in Africa,” said festival co-creator Matthew Morgan.
He said music at the Afropunk Johannesburg celebration would be “thoughtfully curated” and include house, kwaito, punk, hip-hop, soul, reggae, roots, pop and other genres. The event culminates “in an unforgettable New Year’s Eve party in this awesome African city”.
Artists who have performed at past Afropunk festivals include Grace Jones, D’Angelo, Mos Def, Lauryn Hill, Lenny Kravitz, Erykah Badu and Ice Cube.
The early lineup for the three stages at Afropunk Johannesburg includes: Solange, Laura Mvula, King Tha vs. Blk Jks, Theo Parrish, The Brother Moves On, Spoek Mathambo, Black Motion, God’s Sons & Daughters, Manthe Ribane & OKZharp, DJ Lag, Urban Village, Nakhane Toure, Nonku Phiri and TCIYF.
This year’s theme is We The People, the phrase that starts both the American and South African constitutions. It was chosen to coincide with Afropunk’s first outing in Johannesburg … “which makes the Constitution Hill venue even more poignant,” said Morgan.