No music festival in the world can claim a more exciting street-style element than Afropunk. As Joburg looks forward to the global festival’s first outing on African soil on 30th and 31st December, we take a look at some of the artists who embody the afrofuturist punk aesthetic leanings the festival has become famous for.
Artists performing at the first Afropunk to be hosted in Joburg include Solange Knowles, Anderson.Paak and the Free Nationals, Jojo Abot, Petite Noir and Spoek Mathambo.
Another is the popular South African DJ Doo-Wap – real name Kay Morgan – whose style blends traditional Nguni elements with a sports luxe sensibility, giving it an instantly recognisable but unique feel that mirrors the eclectic bass selections of her DJ sets.
“I try not over think how I am going to dress when I’m performing,” says the DJ, who is scheduled to play at Afropunk Johannesburg on December 30th. “I make an effort to dress up for every occasion, not just the stage. I love vibrant colours and lots of beads for when I am dancing and playing. When I go about choosing an outfit for a gig, I like to put loud music on and see what inspiration comes through.”
Doo-Wap’s rise to popularity has coincided with a progressive trend towards modern expressions of blackness. While it is often dubbed ‘afrofuturism’, one could argue that the future is now. From fashion designers, to liquor brands, and even advertising campaigns, many have sought to zero in on this exciting trend that has seen the likes of Laduma Ngxokolo’s label AmaXhosa becoming a global fashion favourite.
But Doo-Wap’s personal influences show that while this trend is now at its zenith, it’s not something new as far as what artists with a strong sense of their heritage have been doing for years. As far back as 2004, for example, singer Simphiwe Dana’s video for her debut single ‘Ndiredi’ looked like something out of a science fiction film, with flying vehicles and a cosmological motif, presumably depicting communication between humans and ancestors.
For her personal inspiration, Doo Wap looks to what she calls “bad asses” from the 90s. Black women artists like Aaliyah, right through to Lebo Mathosa, but it’s learning about herself and African-ness that further informs her style. “I have been on a journey of self discovery and with that comes research, and a connection with my culture and ancestors. All my discoveries are part of my ensemble that I wear and share on the daily.”
While this is a large part of her personal style, Doo-Wap acknowledges the importance of representing this visually as far as her performances and public appearances are concerned. “When you are performing, you are coming as a brand, an aesthetic, an image of how you want to portray your character.”
“The audience will either feel an attachment to it or not. I feel when you come with the whole design, encompassing music, visuals and style authentically, then you have a winning formula.”
She adds: “I think people are constantly looking for answers about themselves in this complex world. The job of the performer is to take that being on a journey of self discovery through exciting their senses.”