Afro: Born of African Spirit and Heritage, see also black (not always), see also rhythm and color, see also other, underdog. Punk: as in rebel, opposing the simple route, looking forward with simplicity, rawness and curiosity, see also other, underdog. Afropunk, as in where I ended up on New Year’s Eve in Johannesburg, South Africa. Clearly, more along the punk lines than the afro, nevertheless, I randomly wandered into this music festival with curiosity.
I feel like a child walking amongst powerful queens. Costumes draw me in and captivate me before I’m even aware of the music. Afros, colorful braids, bald heads adorned with vibrant art swirl around me. Women pass me wearing bodysuits that hug every incredible curve. Mesh tops revealing nipple rings, beautiful brown skin and luscious lines outlining the stunning beauty of African women. I’m mesmerized, and why aren’t you? Can’t you see the perfection? Why would you want to be anywhere else but here, surrounded by alluring features, lines, curves, and confidence. Can radiant beauty be the other? The underdog?
Then I hear the music, the beats calling me out into the mud, the open-pit of people dancing. I forget I’m alone, I’m different, I’m now in a sea of people dancing. Mud cakes my ankles as I dance, but I don’t care. I recognize music from my own country, music from South Africa, and the two blend together. Painted eyes smile at me, telling me I’m welcome, I belong here. My eyes sting with tears as I think about the past year, my own country, discrimination, the ugliness of human power and ego. How lucky am I to be here, to be free, and have the ability to accept others as they are?
“Prejudice makes prisoners of both the hated and the hater,” #NOHATE flashes on the screens around me, as if to read my thoughts. The sun sets and we are met with the cool, crisp air of South Africa as flashing lights pulse along with the crowds movements. I’m offered weed as my new companions make guesses as to where I’m from. I make my way deeper into the crowd, deeper into this impenetrable city that has seemed so harsh to me. Closing my eyes I dance, dance along with strangers that are now more familiar, more like me. I become part of Afropunk, pleasantly swallowed up by a sea of diverse humans as 2017 comes to an end.