Like most other places, South Africa has had a long, painful and complicated history dealing with LGBTQI+ rights. Homosexuality was criminalized during apartheid. In 1996, however, South Africa signed a new, progressive constitution in to law. It includes a ban on discrimination and protects the rights of people regardless of sexual orientation and gender identification: marriage equality and the possibility to serve openly in the military for LGBTQI+ people is included. Still, there is resistance in the broader culture – queer people are marginalized in the media and often portrayed through stereotypes.
But culture also thrives under pressure. In recent years, artists, designers and activists in cities like Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town have brought forth perspectives on different sexual identities and their places in society. They shed new light on South African culture, ideals of masculinity, musical traditions and fashion – to mention but a few topics. It is a powerful example of the way the struggle for freedom among minorities also create much needed new impulses, far beyond subcultures or state borders.
When Oslo World has chosen freedom as this years topic, the burgeoning South-African queer scene is a natural thing to feature. In cooperation with Jozi Nights, Skeiv Verden and Oslo Pride, Oslo World has invited three South African acts to Røverstaden. On the 2nd of November, we will get three glimpses into the breadth of this scene; FAKA, Moonchild Sanelly and Nakhane.
The performance duo FAKA consists of Thato Ramaisa and Buyani Duma, who go by the stage names of Fela Gucci and Desire Marea. Their music is based on gqom, a minimalistic and hypnotic form of house which originated in Durban, as well as different weird corners of the internet. The art of FAKA – whether you meet them live, in music videos, on record or in other mediums – is a fearless exploration of masculinity, femininity and sexual identity. In an interview, Ramaisa has pointed out how important it is for the African LGBTQI+ scene to also be able to portray aggression, to be “in your face”. Trying to appear harmless and adaptable to the broader audience carries risks, he says. Everyone who’s ever experienced FAKA knows that they follow through. The duo has also expanded their work into becoming a broader media platform where young, queer south africans can share their perspectives.
Moonchild Sanelly was born in Port Elizabeth, but she soon gravitated towards the Johannesburg music scene. She comes from a musical family – her brother is a hip hop producer and her mother ran a jazz club. Both genres have during her career, but she has reached a point where her music defies any description but her own. She has called it both “future ghetto punk” and “ghetto funk”: A mix between music, fashion, dance and poetry, performed in both english and xhosa. Her music is eclectic and colourful, but her subject matter is often stark. She sings about everything from an inefficient justice system and domestic abuse to unprotected sex and eating disorders. “I want to get to a point where every woman finds what their personal sexy is and is unapologetic”, she stated in one interview. “I want women to be vocal. I want to help reinstall that confidence of being a woman through my music and fashion.” This summer she will be warming up for Die Antwoord on their European tour, before heading for Oslo World and Mzansi Pride in November.
Nakhane released his sophomore album, “You Will Not Die”, earlier this year. The artist has been openly gay since his twenties, and uses music to relay his experiences. He started out as a folk singer inn Johannesburg. But just like the british glam pop scene of the seventies – one of many things Nakhane can remind the listener of – the acoustic guitar was just a starting point. The need for a larger canvas soon appeared, and it all changed when he collaborated with house dj Black Coffee on the club hit “We dance again”. Since then, his music has become more and more ambitious. On his new album, a vast array of instruments and musical styles contribute towards the end result. In the middle of it all, Nakhane has become a charismatic, full blooded pop artist. He has also made his debut as an actor in the movie “The Wound”, which tells the story of a young gay man who, like Nakhane Toure, belongs to the xhosa people, South Africas second largest ethnic group.
The Jozi Nights (“Jozi” is an abbreviation of Johannesburg) club concept started with two Scandinavian/Southern African friends, Beryl Diane and Primrose Blohm. The shared a love for the village music of their youth. They have been strong ambassadors for African house and electronic music for the past decade, DJing at the hottest clubs and festivals across Scandinavia, as well as South Africa. Beryl featured at last years Oslo World under her own name. She has been appointed cultural ambassador for the music software Ableton Live. The goal is to spread musical awareness and ability to young women in african countries.