Introduced in Paris last year, this year was the inaugural Afropunk Fest in the UK. This September 24th Alexandra Palace has given place to what we call the “Carnaval of Consciousness”. More than a festival, Afropunk did not fail showing support to the Black Lives Matter movement. Denouncing police abuses on their social media, but also promoting Black culture throughout the world.
Now supported by artists, actors, politicians, athletes and other public personalities, as well as by thousands of unknown people around the world, the very controversial movement had trouble find its legitimacy.
The question frequently asked being why would Black Lives Matter more than others? In a world where violence exacerbates, where millions of human lives lose their value. How to prove the relentless police abuses, speaking the truth of hundreds of unarmed people killed based on the fact they’re Black?
The Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted the reality of injustice and racism in the US that has been running for longer than 2012 (creation of the movement after Trayvon Martin’s murder), except now truth is being released. The movement has spread since raising consciousness among African diasporas. This is how Black Lives Matter UK first riots started, rather focusing on making “Black Lives better in United Kingdom”, explains Wail Qasim, activist and writer.
Black Lives Matter VS All Lives Matter?
Afropunk Fest UK had to face this misunderstanding on behalf of the artist Mia initially on the headline, soon removed from the bill following her public stance:
“Is Beyoncé or Kendrick Lamar going to say Muslim Lives Matter? Or Syrian Lives Matter? Or this kid in Pakistan matters? That’s a more interesting question. And you cannot ask it on a song that’s on Apple, you cannot ask it on an American TV program, you cannot create that tag on Twitter, Michelle Obama is not going to hump you back.” Widely criticized among Afropunk fans, ready to boycott, she was soon replaced by Grace Jones.
Originally from Brooklyn (2005), Afropunk is the result of the Afro-American youth raising their voices to be represented and recognized as such. Pushing the system boundaries, the festival was designed to give Black local artists the space and opportunity to express themselves. All of which embodied by the marginal rebel punk spirit. Calling for peace “No sexism, no racism, ableism, no ageism, no homophobia, no fatphobia, no transphobia, no hatefulness” we can only approve the positivity and creativity emerging from this burning energy.
Afropunk stands out this time for a bigger cause than its own: Black Lives Matter.
Among the audience, a counter-cultural cat walk of alternatives mix of African prints and the iconic heavy boots. Cat who we met on the spot says it all:
“To me diversity is a huge, huge thing – To me Afropunk is a beautiful thing, I mean walking around tonight I’ve seen so many absolute beautiful people”.
Beautiful people – coming from different parts of the world for the magic of Afropunk. Motivations were many, some were just curious, some followed their favorite artists, others came for the symbol:
Like Eberé: “There is a big movement happening at the moment from the young black people of the diaspora. I feel like it’s a very important event, it’s a way to celebrate who we are and I’m really embracing it”.
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Photo credit: Sylvia Houahu
Music wise, a versatile headline of young local artists alongside international talents giving us the opportunity to discover rising stars. We fell for the energy of Mikel Ameen, the powerful spirit of Akala, the bewitching voice of Sza, the gorgeous and harmonious Laura Mvula…
Laura Mvula performing at Afropunk London. Photo credit: Sylvia Houahu
No far from there, the Spinthrift market, showcased African beauty, fashion and cosmetic brands. Small creators for the most part, who saw in Afropunk the opportunity to meet African prints lovers. This is where we met Liliane from Afro Retro, Coco from Coco Davillé, and Maya from Gal-Dem magazine.
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Coco Davillé jewleries at Afropunk London – Photo credit: Sylvia Houahu
The overall experience felt a little shy compared to the means invested in the event, such as Alexandra Palace massive venue, probably echoed on the ticket prices. These very much criticized considered as too expensive for a single-day festival, therefore out of tune with Afropunk ideals. Perhaps organizers got too ambitious about this London inaugural?…
Let’s see how things evolve for the next editions to come.