AFROPUNK. A movement that has multiple branches, from its online platform to the festival to a series of collaborative projects. A seed was planted 13 years ago in the mind of Matthew Morgan, the co-founder of AFROPUNK, when the screening of the documentary Afro-punk gathered an intimate group of black kids who shared an interest in punk rock culture. Reflecting on this moment Morgan expressed, “The large portion of them wanted to exist in a space that catered for their music choices and their lifestyle choices but with other black people, which was not available to them for the most part.” The AFROPUNK identity and what it stands for has been translated into a reach of 40 million a week in digital space, and an incredible following of its festival and connected events.
Describing the AFROPUNK audience as global, African and diasporic, Morgan recognizes that their audience is shifting every day. This shifting audience is what allows AFROPUNK to be relevant in Brooklyn, Atlanta, London, Paris, and now Johannesburg. However, the core of the movement never changes – to be a platform for people of colour to see more alternative versions of themselves, and to celebrate black excellence. This is a sentiment that is shared in South Africa and across the globe more generally, which can be seen through social media posts that embrace a similar thinking to the founding pillars of AFROPUNK. The desire to promote and make political and physical space for alternative black culture has resulted in AFROPUNK being a welcomed breath of fresh air in the digital and festival spheres.
This connects with the evolving nature of Johannesburg and the people who inhabit it. From kids who are fresh out of high school moshing at a tightly packed hip hop party, to those who reject western beauty standards by embracing their natural hair, to those who are calling for free, decolonised education. The kinetic energy that is fostered through the networking and collaboration related to AFROPUNK is what provides connection for people of colour. Morgan expressed that it is important for significance of this connection to be acknowledged, and the festival is a way in which this connection can manifest physically. Allowing a moment of self-expression among people of colour who might share similar experiences, or who have to navigate the world in a similar way. It allows for an interrogation of that experience, as well as a moment to exhale.
No Sexism, No Racism, No Ableism, No Ageism, No Homophobia, No Fatphobia, No Transphobia and No Hatefulness. These slogans have become tied to the AFROPUNK identity and present an intersectional understanding of identity politics. They also come from the aspiration for AFROPUNK to create a sense of coming together, and a practicing ground for leaving prejudice behind.
Reflecting on his visits to Johannesburg that led up to the festival being hosted in the city, Morgan expressed that he “spent significant amounts of time on every visit, and feel[s] the music, the fashion, the style, the politics, are incredible, and if we can be part of helping to share that and then bring people in, that again shares, and connects the diaspora in a more meaningful way.”
The festival will be on 30-31 December at Constitution Hill. Tickets available at http://afropunkfest.com/johannesburg/