There’s an ethos behind this particularly political party: “No sexism, no racism, no ableism, no ageism, no homophobia, no fatphobia, no transphobia” and it’s displayed proudly and prominently at the events, which have spread from Brooklyn and Atlanta to Paris, London and more. “It’s important for our community that a big part of the festival is activism,” Cooper says. “We have a young community that wants to be engaged — that wants to make a difference in the world — and it’s important for us to create a platform, to create access to make change.”
This community is found online on Afropunk.com, which is explicitly political — articles are tagged with words and phrases such as “race”, “sex & gender”, “activism” — and on social media. Cooper reckons their digital reach is about 20-million people.
“We are very excited about the idea of bringing all of our community from around the world to Johannesburg,” Cooper says. “The amazing musicians we’re showcasing, the art, the vendors, the makers, the crafters, the food — just all of the culture of South Africa on display.”
Add to this some stellar international performers. Solange has been thrilling audiences — including one at the Guggenheim Museum earlier this year — with a live show that should be worth the ticket price alone. Theo Parrish is one of the most educated dance-music selectors in history.
Regarding the line-up, Cooper says: “My partner Matthew Morgan handles 95% of the bookings, and he is really inspired by a theme, or a feeling. What he wants to create is an experience, musically and visually.
Also, what’s happening in the world, what’s happening in politics, what’s happening in a particular community that we need to highlight. “This year we were absolutely inspired by South Africa,” she adds. “There’s been a piece of South Africa in every festival we’ve done. We were completely inspired by the South African Constitution.”
Explaining what to expect at Afropunk, Cooper describes it as “a homecoming. We’re hoping that the people who are coming from all over the world are excited to be in Joburg.
“What people should expect is a celebration of the best of South Africa, from musicians to all the satellite events — film screenings, conversations, and talks and events and parties. Our community is going to be fully showcased at the festival. The best and the brightest.”
So does Cooper have any tips for surviving Afropunk? “Surviving?” she gasps. “No, you come and you thrive — there’s nothing to survive! Come and be free and enjoy. It is one of the most beautiful, joyous celebrations I’ve been privileged to be a part of in my life.”
JOCELYN COOPER’S MUST-SEES AND DOS AT AFROPUNK
“They are truly amazing live.”
“I’ve never seen him live, but I absolutely love his music.”
“I know house music is important in South Africa – he’s very excited and we’re super-excited.”
“One of the most brilliant performers I’ve seen in the last 10 years – he’s extraordinary: a force.”
“She’e performed for us in Brooklyn and Atlanta – her performance is extraordinary and the message of her record, A Seat at the Table, has changed the idea of how women are seeing their place in the world. It’s not to be missed.”
“We have a fashion show, a capsule collection — vintage and young designers — that we’re gonna be showcasing at South African Fashion Week. What I get most excited about are the crafters, the makers — I don’t think people outside South Africa understand just how genius they are. It’s extraordinary to me and I’m on a mission to showcase it to the world.”