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Capetown Festival Celebrates Black Talent

The “Lifestyle South Africa Festival – Celebrating Black” makes its debut at Cape Town’s International Convention Center this weekend, running from today through Sunday. Education and entertainment will be used to celebrate South Africa’s fast-growing black middle and upper classes and their contributions to the economy. The festival will feature panel discussions, comedians, cutting-edge fashion and the best of local musical talent. From Cape Town, Voice of America English to Africa Service reporter Unathi Kondile says many Africans are embracing newfound identities as they distance themselves from the colonial past or, in the case of South Africa, from decades of white-minority rule.

As the process unfolds, terms like ‘Afropolitan’ crop up. ‘Afropolitans’ are Africans who have adopted cosmopolitan lifestyles, while remaining true to their African heritage.

The goal of this weekend’s “Lifestyle South Africa Festival” is to acknowledge and celebrate ‘Afropolitanism.’ The idea came from three young women - Shiru Githiomi, Zuki Hani and Zuki Zozoyana.

Shiru says, ”The festival is open to everybody. You will not find a ‘blacks only’ sign at the door. But our main target group is the Afropolitan, the person who has embraced that identity or who wants to aspire to that identity. And are we really encouraging them to continue ‘paying it forward,’ because we are in a culture of giving to the community. So when we talk about continuing to uplift the community from the poverty into the middle classes and beyond, we’re saying, we who have got education we need to actually take back into the community [and ….say it’s a good thing that we bring those people into a situation where they can be successful.]”

The deputy president of South Africa, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and the premier of the Western Cape Province Ebrahim Rasool, open the festival.

Corporate sponsors – such as those in the financial sector – have set up “hospitality lounges” at the conference. Zuki Mzozoyana is another of venture’s leaders.

He says, ”The Hospitality Lounges are very large [and comfortable] spaces created by [corporations] that seek to be respectful and to empower us. So in that space you can expect to interact for example with a property lawyer and ask everything you’ve ever wanted to know about property and law, and property transactions in general.”

Alongside these hospitality lounges, or conference rooms, for business networking and panel discussions. People will be able to exchange business cards, and meet others in their industries. The discussions will focus on issues that affect the middle classes – such as investments and other financial decisions. They’ll also discuss how they can help bring more South Africans into the middle class, either as role models or through policy reforms.

But the festival is not all business. For those who want to party, there will be plenty of action.

Zuki Hani, the festival organizer, says, ”We’ve got great musicians, we’ve got the likes of Miss Lira -- she’ll be performing -- Jimmy Dludlu, Freshlyround, MXO, CODA and we’ve also have the three young tenors from Gugulethu and Hout Bay Music project. We also have comedy, we love humour, we love black jokes told by a black person – we have Loyiso Gola and Ndumiso Lindi. There’ll also be barbecued meat, better known as a ‘braai’ or Tshisa Nyama. It will be prepared in the traditional South African style by Mzoli’s -- the popular Gugulethu township barbeque spot run by Mzoli Ngcauzele. Outside we’re putting up a 500-seater marquee. And Mzoli’s doing what he does best - he’s going to bring meat. So it’ll be open from lunchtime, and then the whole day and in the evening [until] we close doors. At 7 o’clock people move to Mzoli’s for the after parties – so we’ll have bands, comedy until the early hours of the morning.”

The event was designed to showcase the diversity of modern-day South Africa, where black and white people are free to mix. The festival will be filled with fun, learning and laughter. Similar festivals will be held in other locations: Johannesburg from the 2nd to 4th of May 2008 and Durban from the 29th to the 31st of August.

“Lifestyle South Africa Festival - Celebrating Black” promises to become a yearly event with many more Afropolitan celebrations to come.