AfroPunk’s homecoming

Thousands of people attended the first AfroPunk festival to be held on the continent. The celebration of alternative black culture was held in the South African city of Johannesburg recently.

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Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi

The festival describes itself as “a blank space to freak out in, to construct a new reality, to live your life as you see fit, while making sense of the world around you”.

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Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi

For years the festival has been a space for Africans in the diaspora to explore their heritage. So some described its first appearance in Africa as a homecoming.

AfroPunk was first held in New York in 2005, and was started by people who felt marginalised by both mainstream black and pop cultures. They drew heavily on the rebellious spirit of punk.

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Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi

It has since become a global movement, and has been held in Atlanta, Paris and London.

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Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi

The festival celebrates music and culture “born of African spirit”, as well as alternative music and fashion. It has become synonymous with eclectic, experimental outfits and style.

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Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi

There was some controversy on the first day after South African DJ Cleo pulled out, claiming local artists were not being treated with the same respect as international ones. But that didn’t seem to stop music-lovers dancing to both legendary old and popular new South African musicians, including Kwaito star Thebe, below. Kwaito music developed in South Africa in the early 1990s.

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Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi

Traditional healer, artist and activist Albert Ibokwe Khoza, below, accompanied The Brother Moves On for their carnivalesque performance.

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Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi

International artists, including British performer Laura Mvula, below, and American Anderson .Paak kept festival-goers entertained on day two. US star Solange was meant to be the headline act but she cancelled due to sickness. Some say the AfroPunk movement has become a victim of its own popularity, and has become mainstream.

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Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi

Pride in black hair, beauty and fashion were all on display, in keeping with the themes of the festival.

The festival also champions inclusion of people of all backgrounds, ethnicities and sexual orientations. Screens flashing the messages rejecting ableism, sexism, homophobia and racism were on display throughout the festival.

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Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi

Art was also created – Gloria Shoki, below, urged others to join her painting a graffiti mural.

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Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi

For 29-year-old performance artist and poet Thola Antamu, below, this was a chance to dress up in her most regal attire.

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Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-42546615

No-go to hot spot

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Melissa Lyttle

The Samalayuca sand dunes are considered one of Mexico’s best-kept secrets. With their stunning views and endemic vegetation, they have plenty of potential to attract tourists, nature lovers and sand boarders. But their location, just 50km (30 miles) south of Ciudad Juárez, means few venture out here as many are put off by the Mexican city’s high murder rate.

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Melissa Lyttle

In 2010, the city on the Mexico-US border broke the record for the highest homicide rate ever recorded, with some 10 people killed on average every day. While the number of homicides has gone down, Ciudad Juárez has struggled to shake its reputation as a highly violent city.

But for locals, the sand dunes have always been an oasis where they find respite and have fun.

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Melissa Lyttle

They are part of the Chihuahuan Desert, the largest in North America, and the dunes occupy an area of 2,000 sq km, a third of which was declared a protected area in 2009.

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Melissa Lyttle

Others come to the dunes for extreme sports.

Tony Reyes, 22, first visited when he was a child with his family and friends. He is part of a racing team which comes to practise off-road driving for tournaments that take place in the area every couple of months.

“What I like most about doing off-road in Samalayuca is the calm of the desert,” Mr Reyes says.

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Melissa Lyttle

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Melissa Lyttle

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Melissa Lyttle

The dunes are located along El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (The Royal Road of the Interior), a 2,560km-long trade route between Mexico City and Santa Fe, the capital of the US state of New Mexico.

For many centuries before the arrival of the Spanish conquerors, indigenous nomads moved up and down the trail hunting and gathering useful plants.

The petroglyphs, or rock carvings, found in Samalayuca are a legacy of the early inhabitants of the area. The images date back 1,500 years and depict wild animals including horned sheep, stars and people.

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Melissa Lyttle

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Melissa Lyttle

The Spanish discovered the trail in the 16th Century and used it to reach the area where they eventually founded Santa Fe. After that, the route became fundamental for missionaries and colonisers and to transport goods and merchandise.

Centuries later, the dunes were used as a setting for several films, including Conan the Destroyer, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and David Lynch’s Dune.

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Melissa Lyttle

Javier Meléndez is a local farmer who is now undersecretary for rural development of the northern area of Chihuahua state. During the most violent years in Ciudad Juárez, he served as mayor of the town of Samalayuca, just off the dunes.

A local celebrity, he has never shied away from addressing the difficulties of his region.

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Melissa Lyttle

In 2014, a Canadian-Mexican copper company came to the area, interested in exploiting the high silica content of the sands.

Mr Meléndez was initially in favour of the project, hoping it would drive down the area’s high unemployment rates.

But environmentalists were opposed, saying it would destroy its delicate biodiversity and put at risk the few sources of water.

Eventually, Mr Meléndez came to oppose it as well. Modern techniques of desert irrigation have made the cultivation of zucchinis and other vegetables possible, creating more employment in the agricultural sector.

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Melissa Lyttle

Moreover, local tourism is growing. Some residents of Ciudad Juárez have bought weekend homes in the area to enjoy the calm surroundings.

“Now we favour tourism as a strategic area for the local economy,” says Mr Meléndez.

“We want to build our future as people of the desert, who are aware of the environment they live in.”

Irene Caselli and Melissa Lyttle were in Samalayuca thanks to a grant from the International Women’s Media Foundation.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-42541672