Celebrating Black

2008-10-17 07:53
The festival served up a cocktail of entertainment including live music, poetry, fashion and comedy. There were also several panel discussions covering topics ranging from wealth creation to African identity. The two day extravaganza was meant to stimulate an 'Afropolitan' experience. While this intention was good, I found myself a little unsettled and even confused during some panel discussions. It almost felt like these were distractions, but I suppose it was a challenge to concentrate on debates while trying to have good time.

As an active member of the so-called black middle class – a 'black diamond' if you like - I have attended most of these talk shows. Most end up being just that – talk shows. I also failed to understand how some of the panels reflect the idea of 'celebrating black'. It was almost trying to squeeze too much of everything into one weekend. While panel discussions are useful, perhaps the organizers should have a separate day for these and reserve weekends for entertainment and lifestyle activities. After all, the festival is supposedly meant to celebrate not debate.

I had the pleasure to be at the launch function on Friday night, which was meant to be addressed by former Western Cape premier Ibrahim Rasool. Unfortunately he couldn't make it. I just hope he wasn't 'recalled' by anyone on his way. You never know, our politicians are deep ones these days! Anyway, I felt something was missing, but perhaps I simply got distracted by the number of familiar faces who couldn’t give a sh*t about whatever was happening, as long as the free drinks kept rolling.
Saturday turned out to be the most successful day, and changed the perception I had from Friday's launch. I rocked up 45 minutes late - definitely not a black thing, I just got delayed. As I entered I met an old school friend who insisted that I must try a mojito by liquidchefs from the Lexus bar lounge. When my drink finally arrived we joined a group of her friends discussing the current political situation, the future of our democracy and what the festival was meant to achieve. Meanwhile on the side, panel discussions were going on covering BEE deals, property investments, success topics by University of Stellenbosch Business School graduates and more – you know, the stuff that's all over the media on a daily basis. So I'm not too sure if it is what I'd want to do on a weekend out, especially at a festival.

To keep the event from being completely boring there was poetry by Ian P featuring the likes of Mbali Vilakazi and comedians in between the program. Later on we were entertained by some first class local musicians. Jimmy Dludlu set the tone for the night. Every time I go to a live gig and Jimmy is playing he always seem to be raising the jazz stakes. When he got to the stage, everyone started gathering closer and within no time Mr Dludlu was on top of his guitar game, doing what he's known for.

Ringo set the house on fire later, getting the audience singing along to an all-hit performance, before HHP fuelled more blazes with some of his Strictly Come Dancing moves. One thing about Jabba's live is that it doesn't matter if you like local hip hop or not, he'll engage you with his Motswako style and little bit of those familiar sounds of yesteryear nicely blended in a pleasing presentation that prove why he is currently considered South Africa's hip hop heavyweight.

Other highlights were a fashion show by Sonwanile Ndamase's Vukani Fashion (Madiba shirt designs), Mzansi designs and Ottimo. Mpho's Ottimo designs have improved quite drastically since I last saw his work at Cape Town Fashion Week last year.

Sunday started a bit slowly with more of the same boring discussion stuff. Unsurprisngly, it seemed most of the crowd was using the opportunity to intermingle and catch up with old buddies. Until Trevor Noah took the stage to loosen up the mood with his hilarious hooks which opened the evening for Ringo and HHP. Ringo is now officially a top performer in my books.

If you understand the meaning behind his powerful lyrics and have a good ear for excellent African sounds then you'll know what I mean. It was almost like it was his last ever performance ever, where he wanted to leave everyone in the audience remembering him forever. "Dolly" was the anthem and "Ndiyagodola" was the signature, getting the young and not so young together in waves of joyous singing along. Finally, the more "serious" crowd were catered for by Sibongile Khumalo after a fresh fashion show by Vukani Range Creations.

On the whole, the Lifestyle SA Festival is definitely a good idea, probably a necessity, but in the end there’s just a little bit too much boiling in one pot....

- EnKay
Audience impressions
What does it mean to "celebrate blackness" in SA?
I felt this term has both a positive and negative connotation. As much as I am a proud African and black woman, I feel that the term at this festival gave the event a certain stigma. On the positive front one could have interpreted celebrating blackness as celebrating Ubuntu or celebrating their Africanism. In fact that is how I would have liked the event to be associated with: Ubuntu or Africanism and not blackness. There could have been so much more one could learn from the event and how much more beautiful would it have been to include our coloured, white and indian sisters and brothers? Whether we like to admit it or not, “celebrating blackness" gives no sense of inclusion for our fellow otherwise NOT "BLACK" fellow South Africans and Africans. - Portia Ntsaluba

The kind of blackness that I felt was being celebrated was one that embraces anything African about oneself. Whether it be your African body, creativity, or level of connection with people around you, the celebration also affirmed where African people come from and where and who they want to be. Most importantly I think the event celebrated the revolution of the black mind.

Why is it necessary?
It means celebrating your femininity if you are a woman. Your maleness if you are a male, but in an African manner. It means thinking back to how our fathers used to escort lady friends to discos back in the days and have a great time, dancing to beautiful music and feeling free of any negative thoughts about the outside world (even if for that brief moment). It's about self respect and that of others around you, no matter what your background or culture is. - Noluthando Bam

Did the performers reflect these questions?
The variety of the artists that performed was a reflection of what new age South Africa is about. It's about freeing one's mind. This was portrayed through spoken word (the basic networking amongst the visitors at the festival), the poetry on stage, the comedy and the mixed genre of musical talents that performed. To me the artists personified new age South Africa, one that is thinking "outside of the box". - Themba Ngconde

The event bills itself as championing "the Afropolitan cause of accumulating real wealth and preserving capital." Was it just about the "bling" and "Benjamins" – or also black consciousness?
I do believe that the publics that visited were definitely the type that aspires to be more than just an African; they want to be a part of the global business movement. They are the individuals who don't necessary wait for things to happen, but want to make things happen. They are thirsty for information on wealth and preservation of capital, but will always remain true to their African identity. So yes a little bit of both you could say. - Clarence Mazibuko

The 2nd annual Lifestyle SA Festival in Cape Town continued to stimulate debate not only in the black community, but in South Africa as a whole. It's intention was to "celebrate black". It's a billing which had some people questioning the need to draw racial lines in a democratic state. Others were fully supportive of the initiative demanding that more should be done to create an environment where the emerging black middle class can get together to discuss development issues and enjoy their succ

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