Seeing young black people come together to occupy space unapologetically is exactly what keeps me going to Afropunk.
On its third festival in 2019, Afropunk Joburg has finally found its footing as a great way to close off your year and to welcome the New Year. I’ve attended all the Afropunk festivals since its initiation in 2017 and with each iteration, Afropunk keeps getting better and better.
Perhaps what sets the 2019 festival apart from previous years began with the uncharacteristic lack of summer thundershowers, allowing our outfits to stay intact from day into the night, and especially for Afropunk, this is a blessing as the fashion is always the gift that keeps on giving. The festival became has become more organised with the use of the Howler cashless payment platform, which they continued on to this year, and also was more considerate by offering rain ponchos so that rain or shine, the party could keep going.
HBO’s hit show Euphoria clearly inspired the makeup looks, with everyone dazzling, shimmering and shining with their jewel and glitter accents. If you didn’t already come with the Euphoria style, the beauticians at the Hair and Beauty village tent applied some jewels to enhance your look. Bold statement headdresses, hats and hairstyles dominated the fashion choices, with references to Lil Nas X, and Moonchild Sanelly faux locs and Sho Madjozi braids had attendees stepping out in bold colours.
Although Burna Boy pulled out just before the festival, the line-up still delivered excellent performances from local talent to bands from the diaspora. The Doberman Boys came through with the classic punk rock sound. Umlilo captured my attention with their invigorating Afro-pop songs and exquisitely styled performance outfit. I’ve never been much of a Masego listener, but after watching his Afropunk performance, I just might be a fan. His stage presence was infectious, you catch on to his sense of joy – live performance is clearly his strong suit. Masego daringly composed some new song mixes on the fly with us, a very impressive feat.
For the first time, Afropunk Joburg completely sold out on the 31st and the main pull was Solange, the headliner for New Year’s Day. With a minimalist stage set and carefully composed choreography, Solange delivered a solid, gripping one hour and a half set to usher in the new year.
Throwing a little shade, Solange advised that “practice empathy” as we enter into 2020 because some of us were calling into question the legitimacy of her illness when she had to bow out. Solange, due to medical reasons, was unable to perform at the debut festival in 2017 and she was definitely worth the wait.
With the success of the 2019 festival, it’s clear that Afropunk has solidified its roots as a pro-black scene for the fashion conscious. I will definitely find myself at the next one; maybe Lizzo can headline next time?