For 14 years, AFROPUNK has provided a culturally stimulating safe space for the marginalised.
They’ve championed diversity within urban culture by placing talented individuals at the centre of the AFROPUNK creative movement. Homegrown talent (in art, music or fashion) is given a platform, specifically, a platform that is fiercely unorthodox and unapologetically black.
Its global expansion is marked by the most recent addition to the family, Johannesburg. AFROPUNK’s desire to connect through diaspora is evident; European, African and American cities now hold a place within its trajectory. Does AFROPUNK’s meaning vary per city? How is this festival-cum-social endeavour a catalyst for change? A sanctuary for free thinking? And can punk really supersede genre? We spoke to key figures from each territory to understand more.
Sesalli CastilloExecutive Assistant, Brooklyn
Brooklyn is where it all began; how does it feel to see AFROPUNK’s vision take it across the world?
It’s beautiful! AFROPUNK to me is a defiance of the mainstream, a rebellion against stereotypes. I love seeing how that culture and expression translates in different countries. No matter where we are in the world, the ideals of being a space that is boldly no hate unites people. Whether someone decides to express that in an outfit, song, blog post or just energy, it’s really cool to see that different cultures feel a connection to it.
What’s the idea behind this AFROPUNK’s Battle of the Bands?
Battle of the Bands exposes bands to our audience and beyond. It’s a place where bands also get to experience a competitive format, which I don’t see a lot personally. The competitive aspect of a Battle of the Bands demands energy – artists are giving it their all, it’s not a typical show for these bands. It makes sense though, the payoff is huge! Performing at AFROPUNK is more often than not the biggest show these bands have played to date.
This year’s AFROPUNK Brooklyn sees a very international roster of talent; grime legend Dizzee Rascal alongside reggae star Protoje. How important was it to showcase black artists from all corners of the globe?
It’s super important! With the emergence of streaming services, especially Soundcloud, music lovers and creators have the opportunity to hear such a wide range of music from all over the world, primarily independently released. Artists from across the globe are influencing each other through streaming services and social media, which influences music consumers whether we acknowledge it or not. To me, this current time of blurring genre lines is really exciting! Due to this level of access to global sounds, I believe we are in the midst of a type of musical revolution and I’d go as far to say as we’d be doing our audience a disservice by regionally limiting our line-up.
Manushka MagloireCommunity Affairs Director, Brooklyn
Twelve years on from the first AFROPUNK Brooklyn, is the need for the festival still as great?
Now more than ever, AFROPUNK is a crucial and relevant counterbalance to widely shifting opinions, policies and laws directly impacting human rights, gender equality, race relations, reproductive justice and a litany of our basic human freedoms across the globe.
As a refuge for free thinking, anti-establishment, creative beings who believe with passion, spirit and fortitude that NO HATE is not only the battle cry of a community of culture architects, but a way of life to be embraced and celebrated – loudly and proudly, AFROPUNK is creating a space for both the individual and the collective to embrace the fullness of identity and freedom of expression while reimagining and redefining systems of oppression.
What role will charity/community play in AFROPUNK Brooklyn this year?
At the core of AFROPUNK is the unwavering ethos of celebrating identity, individuality and providing an outlet for the voiceless, unseen and forgotten to be heard. Through the AFROPUNK Global Initiative (AGI) we’re inspiring fans and supporters to stake a claim and feel empowered to give back to their communities. It’s only through embracing our power and strength as a group that we can truly define our world.
Dean RickettsCultural Commentator and Curator, London
In three words can you describe what AFROPUNK means to you?
A safe space.
In regards to the political upheavals and tragedies that have occurred in London, why is AFROPUNK so important this year particularly?
During these difficult times AFROPUNK provides a place for communities to regroup and connect with people of similar values.
WE ARE THE PEOPLE’s AFROPUNK London sees more of a spotlight given to grime, rap (be it British or American) and neo soul with less of a punk presence – why is this? Is there a danger of losing the punk element of AFROPUNK?
AFROPUNK is a state of mind rather than a genre of music and has always celebrated inclusively so anyone saying something will find a home at AFROPUNK. There’s nothing more punk than black people.
Lou CDEditor-in-Chief, Paris
Back in 2015 Paris was the first European city to host an AFROPUNK. Why do you think that was?
France is one of the top countries following our editorial content on our social networks, there’s a massive following there. I’m the editor for the AFROPUNK site and I moved to Paris and met with the production partners of AFROPUNK to make the Parisian edition happen.
How important is the online community to the AFROPUNK movement as a whole?
The online community is one of the key spaces where the movement lives year-round and grows. People everywhere, from Brazil to South Africa, can access our editorial content, interact with likeminded people, inspire one another, organize, etc.
What are the main aims of the AFROPUNK online platform?
The online platform is a way to publish editorial content that celebrates creatives and activists from the movement. It’s also a space for the discussion of ideals and values, and for spreading the word about AFROPUNK’s events, and much more.
Warren BokweProduction Assistant, Johannesburg
What is it about South Africa and the city of Jo’burg that makes it an AFROPUNK fit?
AFROPUNK is the coming together of nonconformists from minority groups expressing themselves without label, without apologising. It’s a movement that binds local creative quarters under a common vision, counter to the system, to create real equal opportunity and celebrate everything homegrown without conditions. This is exactly what Johannesburg represents.
VanessaFounder of Bazaar Bohemian, Atlanta
What is the inspiration behind Bazaar Bohemian? How does it fit into the AFROPUNK model?
Bazaar Bohemian is an authentic space where I share my journey as a woman, a black woman… a creative, a black creative. A space where I share positive energy through positive imagery and share the stories and narratives of my community.
Bazaar Bohemian fits into AFROPUNK in all aspects. The right to self expression, the right to be exactly who you are. The freedom to explore self love without judgement. A community of people that look like you, feel like you, express like you, cry like you, laugh like you. We don’t have enough of those spaces so AFROPUNK is really a vital and necessary outlet for us.
How important is AFROPUNK Atlanta in providing a platform for emerging designers?
It’s paramount because if we don’t support and provide opportunities for each other, who will?
This year’s AFROPUNK Atlanta will be a ‘CARNIVAL OF CONSCIOUSNESS’. How will that translate into the art and music of the festival?
Between the collaborators and artisans, I know everyone that they work with brings a layer of conversation, a layer of inclusion to the festival. An opportunity to explore deeper connections between ourselves and each other. A safe space to celebrate our culture.
AFROPUNK London takes place this weekend at Printworks, London