Queertopia: The Festival Reimagining the World We Live In
Queertopia: The Festival Reimagining the World We Live InFebruary 7, 2024
From the clubs of Durban – South Africa, Other Village People (OVP) was born out of an urgent need for more queer spaces and initiatives in the local area. As one of the recipients of our Diversity + Parity Fund (2023), we spoke to the directors to get their side of the story.
Founded by Andiswa Dlamini (DJ AN.D), OVP first started out as an event called Same Sex Saturdays (SSS), providing a space for the queer community to party and connect. As the project expanded she was joined by Kefiloe Siwisa, together co-running OVP and becoming life and business partners in the process.
It wasn’t long until they gained traction and later expanded to other cities in the region. SSS now happens bi-monthly in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg. Although there were other queer oriented projects happening, they were few and far between and for Andiswa and Kefiloe there still wasn’t enough in terms of representation and safety for the community.
After several challenging years, SSS became a success, yet quickly its limitations were exposed as something confined to a club environment – a space that didn’t necessarily allow for deeper social engagement and intimate connection. To remedy this, the pair set up Grounded with the intention of setting up smaller scale events that were more naturally inclined to networking and making friends outside of the party space. Meetups include a variety of activities such as going for hikes, dinners, and other group experiences.
“There was just a lack of entertaining spaces or social gatherings. As it started to grow, I realized there’s a lot more gaps in terms of queer entertainment, in terms of queer suppliers, all of that, it just became a link to start Other Village People.” – Andiswa
One thing led to another, which culminated in the creation of Queertopia – a festival that seeks to bring together all the various local subcultures and communities that in some way or form connect to queerness. Offering parties, film screenings, group discussions and art exhibitions, Queertopia exists as a generative and inclusive space. With Queertopia Andiswa and Kelifoe tap into a bigger vision for queer culture – one that dreams of a future global queer-inclusive society, that isn’t just for the weekends.
Breaking queer culture out from its dependable party format seems to be a key topic on the minds of many queer communities, who up until now feel that their spaces for socialization and expression are confined still to night time club environments. There are many implications for this, such as the continuing need to cultivate safe spaces and equal opportunities for queer people not just in nightclubs but the rest of society.
According to Andiswa, South Africa could be considered relatively privileged in its stance towards queerness compared with other countries where queer culture is still censored and policed. However, that’s not to say that hate crimes aren’t occurring, and that queer people have equal opportunities in not just music but other industries.
If OVP is to ultimately succeed, then the root causes of the problem need to be addressed. Andiswa and Kefiloe realized that they needed to build the infrastructure to create a network, so that conversations can be had and connections can be made. They also pointed out the significant barriers that people face when starting out, whether it’s access to education, skills or equipment – everything, from understanding how to do funding applications and events organization, to DJing, production and business management.
“I think on a DJ level, a lot of queer people who are interested in DJing can’t afford equipment. If you do want to have access you either have to hire or you have to go to lessons but also that’s like an access thing, and if you’re starting out, you’re not going to go out immediately to buy equipment – who can do that? And so that becomes the first barrier, and then on top of that then if you’re not already in the scene you don’t have access to people” – Kefiloe
Andiswa and Kefiloe’s desire is for Queertopia to provide a means for communication and exchange within a peer-supported network, where resources can be pooled and ideas shared. Now they are on a mission to empower their community by fostering diversity and collaboration, and disseminating practical and essential knowledge and skills to those that need it.
“Collaboration is the key to all our evolution and all our success and all our joy. Partnering in a meaningful, intentional, constructive collaborative way. When you’re working with intention and integrity, there’s nothing that beats that.” – Andiswa
The next Queertopia takes place in Johannesburg on 24-25th February 2024, grab your tickets here.