By Boipelo Bokaba
Think of a world where all spaces are safe spaces. Where self-expression, discussions and celebrations are encouraged. Where respect for ourselves and others is at the forefront of every interaction, and we hold ourselves accountable with no one policing any other individual’s expressions.
Well, that world was brought to the heart of Joburg through the second leg of a brilliant collaborative concept by Jägermeister’s residency programme, Night Embassy’s elected unmuted ambassadors – Other Village People who presented Queertopia. This was an intentional three-day experience for the LGBTQIA+ that took place from Thursday 18th to Saturday 20th November at Constitutional Hill.
In true African style, the rains blessed the first few minutes of the opening ceremony, emphasising new beginnings and the theme of the day – the house of new world order. Once the clouds cleared and the rainbow showed up in all its flair, so began the festivities. The hosts warmly welcomed everyone with thanks, a few house rules and, without giving too much away, explained the programme for the weekend. Keeping to new world order ways, we got to experience a flagging ceremony for our kingdom, a flag designed by Ntsikelelo ‘Lelo’ Meslani aka Lelowhatsgood a young, multi-talented queer creative.
The beautiful flag features all the colours from the LGBTQIA+ flag, but instead of the solid colours Lelo has blended the colours which signify us uniting and loving ourselves, so we no longer see ourselves as others.
The night was amplified by the Jägermeister Brass Cartel, that rocked the night with classic party anthems from Kanye West’s ‘Can’t tell me nothing’ to Daft Punk’s ‘One more time’. Congo Muffin, Rosie Parade, Thanda Kunene and AN.D made the dancefloor irresistible, with their great sets. We all went home wanting more of this new order while highly anticipating the rest of the weekend.
Day two was for the spirituals, the chakra babes and beasts. The intention was about getting in touch with your feels. We were serenated by Nonku Phiri, Buhlebendalo and Muneyi. We got an opportunity to feed our souls and embrace the intimate places in our being, something we as queer folks aren’t always free to express in other groove spaces. We got to engage in organic conversations without fear of judgement or prejudice or having your light dimmed. As if that wasn’t enough of an experience, the curators also unveiled a mini queer exhibition, which featured beautiful artwork by artists in the community.
The final day started early to make sure we fully took in the experience, like day one, we were blessed with some rain. Now if you are reserved like me, the rain forced you to come out of your shell and have conversations with unfamiliar faces. Under the shelter, we all gathered and that turned strangers into friends. Like a rebel with a cause, the sun showed up and kickstarted the closing ceremony with a dope lineup that featured performances from Moonchild Sanelly and Thandi Draai. The decks were set on fire by Kat Upendi, Lotion, Sjay, Phatstoki and DBN Gogo.
Between the Jäger photo booth, the delicious signature cocktails, the stunning venue and great attention to detail given by the curators, we look forward to many more safe queer spaces. Ten out of ten from us to the organisers.