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The Views from a Transcendent Afropunk Weekend in Johannesburg

Over New Year's weekend, the festival landed at a former women's prison in South Africa's biggest city. Photographer Shan Wallace and Noisey's Lawrence Burney saw it all.

by Lawrence Burney; photos by Shan Wallace
Jan 6 2018, 12:21pm

All photos by Shan Wallace

Afropunk is most often advertised as a music festival, but the service it provides transcends even the astounding talent put before its crowd. The event has become a global meeting point for black people of all nations to come together to celebrate their existence and to affirm their beauty and individuality, all while giving a therapeutic feeling of harmony. In 2015, the festival, which had been exclusively held in Brooklyn since 2005, expanded to Atlanta. The next year, it spread to London and Paris, two of Europe’s biggest hubs for black culture. But it wasn't until this year that Afropunk made its most crucial expansion, landing on the African continent for the first time in Johannesburg, South Africa for New Year’s weekend.

As in the four cities that the festival already occupies, there were young people dressed to kill, putting together their best looks for the many cameras that are floating around. A clear distinction of the Joburg instalment was the tangible excitement and radiant energy permeating through one-time women’s prison grounds, Constitution Hill. People walking through the festival said that they'd been waiting for Afropunk—which celebrates the fullness of the African diaspora—to touch down in its rightful home. The gratitude and glee were on full display over the two-day event. These photos are a look into what this past weekend in Johannesburg provided.

Follow Shan Wallace on Instagram and Lawrence Burney on Twitter.