An ode to the critically acclaimed 1991 LGBTQ+ documentary Paris Is Burning, this is a story of South Africa’s queer youth searching for more places to call ‘home’.
The inception of Vogue Nights Jozi was an urge to carry the culture from the legendary mother’s and father’s of New York’s ballroom subculture from the 80s and bring it to life within an African context – a first of its’ kind in South Africa, our land. The growing globalisation and popularity of the subculture might see it drifting from its roots, but this particular movement in the city will try to engage, teach and tightly hold the scene from disintegrating into something that it’s not.
Ballrooms have become a place where queer folks find their ability to become themselves without fear of judgement from society – a place of liberation all in the name of being accepted within a community they could relate to.
Much like the stylish poignant film that followed African American and Hispanic gay men, drag queens and transgender women as they competed simultaneously in fierce and fun competitions involving fashion runways and vogue dance battles, and sporting styles like Butch Queen, Schoolboy Realness, Luscious Body. Many of the contestants were vying for trophies and were represented in “Houses”, such as LaBeija, Xtravaganza, Ninja and Pendavis, served as surrogate families and social groups for predominately youthful community largely ostracised from mainstream society.
The director of this Sundance-prize winning doccie covered complex topics that we still deal with today that include; class, race and racism, socio-economic status, gender, sexuality and beauty standards. The ramification of these issues are ones that we have to deal with on a daily basis – and in a city like Jo’burg, we carry these weights of social oppress like the bags in our eyes from burning the midnight oil on a chaotic Saturday night.
Vogue Nights Jozi is a start of a particular revolution – one that places bodies of gay, transgender men and women, non-binary, bisexual, lesbian, femme and queer-identifying folks into the front the nightlife spaces that cater so little for the community. This is also a project that’s in line with the handful existing spaces that also seek to deal with raising the safety of the community, as well as amplifying the energy of love, vibrating on high frequencies, and moving a culture that is for us, by us. This movement is amplified by W.O.K.E Arts & ActivateWits – and was held for the first time at the J&B Hive on 29 June 2018.
Jozi Is Burning re-imagines the influential 80s artistic revolution, and still draws out the uniqueness of the city’s queer youth. I partnered up with Azania Forest, a young, black talented photographer and visual stylist Khensani Mohlatlole, who teamed up on make-up with Jess Gold Goldberg, to bring this vision into life.
In these visuals, we brought out the characters of the new age queer and showing the spectrum of the LGBTQ+ community. From Pansexual, Bisexual, Gay to Transgender, we vividly expressed the “realness” and the approximation of these archetypes depicted from ball categories, such as Butch Queen, Looking Fish and Serving Fem.
Photography: Azania Forest
Art Direction: Zane Lelo Meslani
Styling: Khensani Mohlatlole
Make-Up: Khensani Mohlatlole & Jess Goldberg
Jozi is in for a celebration of Mzansi’s eclectic sounds this April. AKA, Angel-Ho, Sjava, K-$, Da Capo and DJ Lag are amongst some of the artists added to the lineup for Red Bull Music Festival taking place between Tuesday, 3 and Sunday, 8 April.
The festival, which will take place over various venues in and around Johannesburg features a diverse range of talent. With over 80 artists expected to perform, Mzansi will be spoilt for choice.
More acts will be added to the massive lineup set to take over Johannesburg. The City’s iconic venues, which have become home to the most accomplished local performers will provide the best entertainment experience for music revelers. The Orbit, Bassline, AND Club, Kitcheners, Great Dane, Fox Junction and Zone 6 are some of the venues that will host the Red Bull Music Festival.
The festival kicks off on Tuesday, 3 April, by paying homage some of the greats who have played a role in shaping the South African and the global music scenes.
The second night at Orbit will offer a different taste to the music lover’s pallet. The night will feature a musical arrangement fostering creativity in sound creation and collaboration in a never to be heard again Round Robin performance. Round Robin is a performance where a musician takes the stage for a five minute solo performance before being joined by other musicians from multifaceted backgrounds, who improvise together in segments of 5 minutes each. This will be a celebration of Jozi’s diverse, iconic sounds. Artists such as pianist, Luyanda Madope, drummer Tlale Makhene and vocalist Keorapetse Kolwane are amongst some of the artists who will perform this once off music experience.
South African reggae masters, Admiral and Jahseed will celebrate 24 years of Reggae at Bassline on Thursday, 05 April, with Zimbabwean artist Maad Mugo, The Dancehall Queens and DJ Radix.
Friday, 6 April, will be the busiest night at the festival, with no less than four venues hosting individual party experiences. AND Club, which boasts one of the best sound systems in Jozi, will provide the best techno sounds. DJ Lag, Stiff Pap and Angel Ho will bring the house down at Kitcheners and Sean Munnik, Rouge and K-$ will show how millennials like to throw it down at Great Dane.
At the same time on Friday at Republic of 94, the legacy of Kwaito will be celebrated, going back to the mid-tempo mixture of house, hip-hop and pantsula culture of Trompies through to the sped up Afro-House sounds of Oskido and Afrontainment. Music enthusiasts will re-enact the the 90s style and edgy attitude inspired by icons such as Brenda Fassie, and Lebo Mathosa.
Saturday sees modern soul music trailblazers Shekhinah, Langa Mavuso, 340 Million, Gina Jeanz and legendary ghetto funk pioneer Egyptian Lover take over Fox Junction. The venue will have three captivating stages which will cater for diverse music tastes. Audiences will enjoy new genres such as trip hop, house future R&B and everything in between. And headlining the major festival will be Skepta, the U.K. grime rapper who’s surely going to being his tracksuit mafia.
Closing the weekend on 8 April at Zone 6, Sjava and Shomadjozi will demonstrate their maverick styles and how they combine modern hip-hop with the traditional sounds of Maskandi and XiTsonga music respectively. South African deep-house royalty Da Capo and hip-hop chief AKA round off the night and festival to conclude the week’s celebrations.
Red Bull Music Festival Johannesburg is a global celebration of 20 years of the Red Bull Music Academy. The Academy is a world-traveling series of music workshops and festivals. Festival goers of all ages visiting the city will undoubtedly celebrate Johannesburg in its legendary light. The festival has been held in various cities including Los Angeles, New York City and Paris and espouses the values of the RBMA: to create, collaborate and celebrate the SA music scene.
Tickets to the Red Bull Music Festival are available on www.redbullmusicfestivaljhb.com, priced from R100 – R350.
“For more information on the Red Bull Music Festival, please visit www.redbullmusicfestivaljhb.com and
Reasons why I wanted to do these mini-series stories, is because we’re not educated enough on Transgender issues and sensitivity.
Small things such as pronouns and asking sensitive questions to someone who is going through their transition. We need to watch ourselves. Even if you’re in the LGBTQI+ community.
We need to watch how folks in the community are quick to silence the “T” or “Q”. The passive transphobia almost slipping past our own tounges and not being aware of their presence in our spaces. Even if you are aware, how are we making sure that we’re not being violent in our mannerism and conduct?
Some people in the LGBTQI+ community still perpetuate cisheteropatriarchy. How will we disrupt the normative views? Especially in the creative industry?
You might know Kat as “Katboymeetsgirl” – the name says it all. Kat has been in her transition and has been fully aware of her sexuality and gender identity from a very young age.
I got to spend some time with her in the past weekend, and I’m very grateful for that because it has allowed me to shape this piece with a better understanding.
I caught up with her for a few questions and got to kiki with the good sis.
1. I know asked this question before. But I need to know where your headspace is with our current climate – what’s your view on the LGBTIQ+ community in South Africa?
What I think of our community is… that there’s not a lot of unity, especially being a transgender amongst gay men, they will make you feel like you’re not woman enough to be a woman. There’s a lack of understanding of each others’ dynamics as a whole community. I’ve never been entirely accepted by a lot of gay, transgender, and lesbians because of the person I am.
I’m not my medical situation, I’m a woman first and most people in our community don’t get that. Not everyone has to be an activist to be validated as a “South African Transgender woman”. I believe that I don’t have to voice out my issues and what I think needs to change, selfish people are the happiest and that’s me. I’m very selfish with my happiness. The LGBTIQ stands by itself and will always be a strong community because of what it stands for, but there should be more unity within the community. Then our rainbow will make sense.
2. A lot of people don’t understand the transition. Is there any advice you would give to someone who is going through their own transition?
My advice is: start now rather than later ’cause the process in South Africa takes forever, therefore you’ll need all the time in the world.
Don’t be afraid to live the life you want to live, transitioning is not only about the way you look, there’s more to transitioning than just looking like a woman. Transitioning is not easy but it can be done. You have to be patient and make sure you make yourself happy before anything else. But first, the transition starts with knowing what you want.
3. Education around Transgender issues needs to be prioritised, do you think there are enough programs in SA that aim to do that?
I don’t think there are enough programmes but there are people doing the education, which is a good start. The process takes time. Especially in our country, which frustrates me but I believe that I’m enough information, or a good example rather, for the next person who is curious and wants to understand what it means being transgender. I believe that I’m capable of making the slightest difference by just being open about being a transgender woman and that’s the power I think we have.
Follow Kat on Instagram: @katboymeetsgirl
Side note, you can listen to Kat’s top 3 favourite songs:
With that said, do leave a comment below or tweet me and let’s talk about how we can be better at being a community and having unity. Understanding that there are dynamics and we should be decolonising our own community from these constructs.
Initially, I wanted to publish these mini-stories during Transgender Awareness Week, which was from 13 – 20 November.
It raises the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people and also addresses issues that the community is facing. With tweets popping up here and there, it just wasn’t enough.
‘Do you cav‘ the vision?’ – Jo’burg Proverb
I thought to myself about the issues within our black millennial LGBTIQ+ community from the South African context. We’ve been labeled with a certain complex and we need to clear up some things. But that’s an issue we need to dissect later on.
I got the opportunity to connect with one of my faves, Glow, and speak to her on certain issues within society, her top 3 music tunes (because why not?) and thing’s she’s working on.
Glow is fast becoming the voice of reason within the creative industry, using her identity to shift perceptions and make a social impact on media platforms through her YouTube channel.
1. What’s a typical day like in the life of Glow?
Well, i recently left my job and ever since then, no day is ever typical. It’s on either end of extremes, with some functionality of cause…
2. Top 3 songs that describe you?
1 – For god so loved us / Selaelo Selota.
2 – Loveeeeee song ft Future / Rihanna.
3 – Jamie xx / the rest is noise.
3. What’s your view on the current LGBTIQ+ community in South Africa?
Which community? I don’t feel the sense of community, to be honest, it feels a lot of times like its all very individualistic. I guess we have a long way to go in terms of ACTUALLY being a community of support for each other and fighting for justice? However, generally, I think we’ve made strides – there’s representation on TV now consistently, and that matters in terms of progress and where we come from.
4. You’ve spoken out about your transition before, is there any advice you would give to someone who is going through their own transition?
Disassociate yourself from the comparison, it’ll kill you inside and make you hate yourself, you already got the world doing that – don’t do that to yourself, too.
Acquaint yourself with those parts of yourself you hate, get to know them, hear them out – they’re worth the same love you so easily give to the parts of your body the world tells you are desirable.
Celebrate that body and all of its’ functions and understand you are far more than it or what it can do. You’re magic- know this and remind yourself of it every day I guess.
5. The importance of education around Transgender issues needs to be prioritised, even though we have inclusive laws, do you think there are enough programs in SA that aim to do that?
I think there are programs, I just don’t know if there’s enough or if they do enough or if they even have enough budget. That’s where the ‘enough’ gets catchy, I just don’t know which one exactly is missing.
Look, I quite enjoy my conversations and the times I’ve got to interact and hang around Glow. We’re big supporters of each others’ craft, vision and aims in life. We’re aiming for the stars.
Follow Glow here:
Naomi “Nai Palm” Saalfield is the frontwoman of the R&B neo-soul futuristic, Grammy-nominated band from Australia, and she just gave us her solo offering recently, which is effortlessly raw and emotional.
Nai Palm explained herself during an interview with Billboard when she performed the album’s songs at an intimate concert in Brooklyn. Palm specifically wanted the album’s focus to be in her voice. She “wanted to explore the potential for immortality and timelessness within her music by stripping away the produced layers to focus on the element that is closest to the source of the human soul, the voice”. And she did that.
Needle Paw is a 13-track journey of reclaimed energy. The first track is a healing chant – “Wititj (Lightning Snake) Pt. 1” and eventually closing with its “Pt. 2.” features Jason Guwanbal Gurruwiwi and pays homage to the indigenous culture of Nai Palm’s native Australia. No lies, I’m not as clued up on with my history regarding the native/indigenous Australian people – but from the little I know, this group of people (Aboriginals) are amongst the most oppressed and often silenced.
Rappers such as Drake, Kendrick Lamar and singer-songwriter Anderson .Paak have sampled Hiatus Kaiyote staple songs. “Atari”, the second song to appear on the album was also sampled on Kendrick’s DUCKWORTH from his 2017 studio album DAMN. “Crossfire” is a Needle Paw original that pairs with a classic cover of Tamia’s “So Into You”, a perfect transitional balance for an R&B bop.
Needle Paw is filled with gospel-like harmonies, sweet-broken guitar strums, vocal runs and sharp lyrics that make you hum along throughout. She demands her voice to be heard. It’s an acoustic intimacy more than anything. Her song choice and merging of classic songs as well make it nothing but perfect.
Palm honours music legends and probably her biggest inspirations such as Jimi Hendrix on “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)”, David Bowie’s cover of “Blackstar” and Radiohead “Pyramid Song” paired with Hiatus Kaiyote’ Grammy-nominated Best R&B performance “Breathing Underwater”.
This woman is a dream. She also gives nod to 80s gaming console sounds and references Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time character on “Mobius” – (“ancient psychic tandem war elephant”) as she sings on the song.
She draws her inspirations from reality and a metaphysical realm and exhaling that energy into her pen game and vocal deliverance.
Needle Paw has a consistency whereby the album’s palette allows the songs to merge and blend together if you had to play it in one sitting. Most of the song’s on the album are HK reworks that have been stripped down.
My favourite songs on the album have to be Homebody, Borderline With My Atoms, Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)
Album Rating: 9.5/10
This piece is basically inspired by what i was tweeting about after Day 1 of fashion week:
Damn the local fashion industry will not go anywhere if we keep saying everything is “great”.
— needle paw (@lelowhatsgood) October 25, 2017
I’d like to start off by saying, fashion week IS a big deal. There are jobs and careers on the line, designers spend thousands of Rands to showcase a collection and show it to key media and the general public. How accessible it is, is a story for another day.
This year saw all walks of life gathering at the Sandton City rooftop, the “new home of SAFW” – which I still don’t get. A better venue than Hyde Park Corner nonetheless. Here’s the main frustration without beating around the bush; seating. Media is there to generate real-time content showing runway looks by said designers and give great, quality images. Are they expecting people do that from the back of a marquee?
Fine. Whatever. General South Africans have come down to a point where they just do not care about fashion weeks. Day 1 shows followed by outcries by some popular influencers, bloggers, and a few people in media could only mean one thing.
Just a few examples…
All these fashion events but no real return or support for the designers,models and glam teams who have to create and then be critiqued. 😶
— ⚡️⚡️⚡️ (@boogymaboi) October 25, 2017
Followed by some of this:
I have seen a lot of tweets challenging the notion of designers being critique on their shows at fashion weeks. Are you kidding me?
— Nicola Cooper (@NicolaCoop) October 26, 2017
We only deal with #FAX – S/O to Nicola Cooper.
The highlight and buzz of that day were purely because of Rich Mnisi and Thebe Magugu. While I got to see the show on social media, I did however get to enjoy the AKJP installation earlier during the day at SMAC Gallery, Keyes Art Mile in Rosebank. Stunning. They served champagne, darling.
During the course of fashion week, I encountered and got connected with a few creatives such as my new faves Ricci-Lee Kalish (AKA Big Bad Wolf), Luyanda Madonia and Ayanda Nhlapo just to name a few – who all had the same chat about how problematic fashion week can be, how it can be fixed, and how no one ever really listens to what we have to say.
The girls served looks, nonetheless.
We also cannot be talking about the same thing each year. On a positive note though, SAFW actually gives designers great exposure and better opportunities, given the sponsorships it has. Still. The bar needs to be raised each year to make it an experience for those attending – media, and the general public. We’ve been on the same pace, going nowhere, slowly.
The vibe was anything but exciting. Menswear saved that entire week – designers ranging from Floyd Avenue, Roman Handt, Tailor Me, Vintage Zionist x AFROPUNK and Urban Outlaw 69 just to name a few.
Will it get better? We will never know. Is the industry growing? Girl, i guess.
Here are some of my favourite looks!
Credit: Eunice Driver, Eunice Driver Photography
I’ll be honest and say, the first time i’ve ever heard of Kelela was on Solange’s ‘Scales’ late last year. I was captured. This lead me to the discovery of her musical discography from there on.
I remember listening to her 2013 mixtape Cut 4 Me, which was closely followed by a 2015 EP ‘Hallucinogen’. If anything, her consistency and follow up to the much awaited LP is something to be celebrated.