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Ushering in 2018 the Soweto way

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Ushering in 2018 the Soweto way
A MARVEL: Part of the Afro-Punk crowd

AfroPunk madness, My bungee fear and the kasi flavour

I love travelling, in fact I’d travel every month if I had the chance, or in my case if these pockets had no holes in them (not-so-subtle hint to head office!).

Therefore, an all expenses paid trip by South African Tourism at the end of last year, couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

The four-day Soweto sojourn for the first ever Afro-Punk festival held on African soil began on the 29th December.

Since 2005, when Mathew Morgan and James Spooner co-founded the event, the festival has been a space for Africans in the diaspora to interact and connect with their heritage.

Now the AfroFest was finally on our shores and I was amongst the thousands who thronged the Constitution Hill in Braanfontein, camera, whiskey glass ‘n all that in hand.

Two days, 28 musicians and an epic way to start a new year!

I have no idea how the festivals in cities like New York and London penned out, but South Africans had an excellent concept.

Infusing the festival with the history of the struggle against apartheid and staging it in the most metropolitan township in South Africa, the melting pot of the country’s cultures, was a masterstroke! Soweto was perfect for such an event and I’m convinced the show will return; that’s just how powerful the Kasi bug is!

Ushering in 2018 the Soweto way
LANDMARK: The Orlando Towers

Day 1 (Friday 29 December 2017)

Together with two colleagues from Yarona FM, we arrived at OR Tambo International Airport at 12:20hrs where we met with a group of journalists from Kenya.

We were immediately whisked away to Chaf Pozi for fun activities.

Sadly we were half an hour late, meaning we had to forego quad-biking through the popular Soweto neighbourhoods.

The next activity, however, was bungee jumping off the famous Soweto Towers – a nightmare for this Pilikwe native!

“I’m a 110kg Sir, am I allowed to bungee?” I sheepishly enquired of one of the staff members, hoping desperately for a ‘hell nah’.

“Yes, we have a special rope for heavy people,” he replied with an evil grin that plainly said, ‘you can’t fool me, I can smell your fear!’

The idea of free falling head first has never appealed to me, hence I was extremely relieved when we learnt it was too windy for us to bungee.

It was God’s perfect response to my silent prayer, although I had actually requested a little hailstorm just so we miss these adrenaline junky activities.

Unfortunately, my reprieve was short lived.

Within the massive towers, the weather was deemed stable, perfect in fact, for a SCAD (Suspended Catch Air Device) fall from the 33 storey towers.

I mastered what little bravery I could as this dreadlocked guy, sporting that same ‘I know you’re scared’ smile, strapped me and five others to the contraption.

I watched as one by one my team members took the plunge, their high-pitched screams before landing on an inflated tube hundreds of metres below doing nothing to help my confidence.

All of a sudden it was my turn. My heart skipped a beat, the thing went skrrrrrrrr-pha and the man was down. I’ll never do it again!

We had a late lunch (and a few stiff, well-earned drinks) at Vuyos, a modern African restaurant on Vilakazi Street and then checked in at Malsow Hotel located in the Sandton Financial District, just a few minutes from Gautrain Station and Nelson Mandela Square.

This would be my home for the next three days. For dinner we headed to The Living Room in Maboneng.

An area under rehabilitation, for years it was declared a no go zone due to high crime rate, but is now bouncing back and offers a unique lifestyle with a mix of restaurants, boutiques, retail, art galleries and studio space.

Ushering in 2018 the Soweto way
FUN CENTRE: Chef Pozi

Day 2 (30 December 2017)

This was perhaps the highlight for me. A visit to the Apartheid Museum was an emotional one.

This museum is one of a kind; it brings apartheid back to life and helps visitors further appreciate struggle heroes and heroines.

The museum exhibits provocative film footage, photographs, text panels and artefacts illustrating the events and human stories of the old South Africa.

After two fascinating hours (I could happily have spent the whole day there) in the museum we were chauffeured to Constitution Hill at around 1300hrs for Day One of the AfroPunk Festival.

It was epic. Two huge stages at the foot of the Women’s Prison and hundreds of Afrocentric fans on the lawn.

A few glasses of rum later I got my groove on. I was just about to show off my vintage dance moves when the heavens opened.

A hailstorm came out of nowhere and had everyone running for shelter. No God, not today! We were drenched, all of us.

From VVIP, to VIP to P’s we got soaked to our socks and no amount of rum could warm me.

Although it cleared up and the festival continued, I took the first bus to the hotel at 8pm and slept like a baby.

Day 3 (New Year’s Eve)

After missing out on last night’s line-up, I was determined to fully enjoy Day Two of the Festival.

It was a lovely sunny Sunday, the perfect weather to say goodbye to 2017. We arrived at Constitution Hill at noon and the place was already packed.

The festival was truly back with the two huge screens on the two stages flashing messages rejecting sexism, homophobia, racism and many other prejudices in line with the festival theme. There was an amazing line-up, including the likes of American rapper Anderson.

Paak, British songwriter and pianist Laura Mvula, Spoek Mathambo, OKZharp and Manthe Ribane, Nonku Phiri, Gods Sons and Daughters, DJ Lag, Urban Village and TCIYF.

The African drum was on repeat mode and the spirits of those who died in the prisons and military fort at Constitution Hill would no doubt have smiled proudly at the sight of thousands of Africans, black and white alike, coming together to enjoy the continent’s music.

From Spoek Mathambo, who amazingly fused his traditional Zulu music with House beats, to Thandiswa Mazwai and traditional healer, artist and activist Albert Ibokwe Khoza, whose performance alongside The Brother Moves On entranced revellers, AfroPunk Johannesburg was, as the youngsters would say, ‘lit’.

The countdown finally arrived and with Distraction Boys’ Omunye phezu Komunye playing in the background, the night sky was transformed into a dazzling, multi-coloured spectacle as fireworks from the stage welcomed in the new year.

Day 4 (01 Monday 2018)

It was a day spent at leisure, updating statuses on Facebook and tweeting about the epic night before.

Late in the afternoon we were treated to a sumptuous dinner at Kwa Lichaba.

This joint in Orlando West is owned by Max Lichaba, who recently married former Generations star Pamela Nomvethe (Queen Moroka).

Located on the edge of the most famous street in South Africa (Vilakazi Street), it offers an authentic ‘chesa nyama’ experience in a chilled and relaxed environment.

It is my pick from the rest; Kwa Lichaba oozes class without losing the kasi touch and even when I touched based on Tuesday at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport I had vivid memories of the simple yet classy set up of Max’s place. In Setswana we simply say ‘ke o bonye ngwaga’.