AfroPunk Paris 2019
Paris is so charming you almost forget it’s a colonial world power. A city that begat all other cities, from it’s architectural obsession with circles which literally center power to it’s streamlined public transportation system, Paris is perhaps the first “concrete jungle”. Maybe that’s what makes AfroPunk Paris 2019 especially fulfilling. This year the weekend long music and culture event took place at La Seine Musicale, a performance stadium just off the water in the southern part of town. It’s slightly off-kilter and feels like it’s own world within the Parisian universe. The perfect backdrop for my first time in Paris.
I’m currently in Europe making my way to T’bilisi, Georgia to take part in a writing seminar and Paris was the cheapest plane ticket into Europe. Imagine my surprise when I realized that AfroPunk would be happening the same weekend I arrived, the caramel sauce on this crêpe of a Parisian summer adventure.
From the indoor and outdoor event setting to the food vendors, AfroPunk Paris 2019 feels like what AfroPunk Brooklyn has been missing for a few years now. As music concerts grow larger everywhere, space is at a premium when it comes to festivals. A poorly ventilated concert space can make or break a concert. Luckily, AfroPunk Paris does not have that problem. I remember going to AfroPunk Brooklyn before the brand went global. I remember when it centered black punks. I remember when you could walk into Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn watch SZA perform in her oversized white T-shirt and not fall out from a heat stroke.
The brand has expanded and with each passing year a new city is introduced. I’ve heard that AfroPunk Johannesburg during New Years Eve is amazing, AfroPunk Atlanta is refreshing but I’ve witnessed this past weekend how charming AfroPunk Paris truly is. It’s not yet wildly popular, which is surprising for a metropolis that’s always claimed to “love” black art and culture. After all Paris is where James Baldwin and Nina Simone got a whiff of “freedom”, and isn’t French culture a bit more liberal anyway? Whatever the reason, one city’s slept on AfroPunk weekend is my personal playground.
I was only able to experience the first day in which Burna Boy, Ibeyi, Tiwa Savage and Janelle Monae performed. I missed Burna Boy and I’m still heartbroken about that – but I got to sit down and watch Janelle Monae. imagine an AfroPunk Festival where there are seats and space to breath!
AfroPunk 2019 Community
Logistics aside, the true wealth at any AfroPunk Festival is the community. People come from all over just to revel in each others black beauty for a weekend. Lifelong friendships are made, diasporic connections are strengthened and asses will shake. What more could you ask for?
For All The Pretty Birds, I spoke to 13 people about why they came to AfroPunk Paris 2019 and the importance of finding a community.
“I just liked the vibe when I saw the photos from AfroPunk Brooklyn and London. We don’t have that tight knit community in Amsterdam so we thought – let’s do a road trip!”
-Veruschka & Kimberly, Amsterdam [@n.Afrini]
What brought [us] here? The music, the art, the energy, the empowerment of black people.”
“I’ve been [coming] since the beginning and I went to Brooklyn last year. I just love it. AfroPunk Brooklyn is different, it’s the original – so they’re not quite the same but it’s good to have something like this in Paris.”
Valerie @valeriedjms, Paris (via Cameroon)
“I came to see Burna Boy and Tiwa Savage cause I love Afro music…I love to see all the people. Everyone is beautiful and well dressed, I’m so excited to be here.”
Cheikh “Cher” Kébé, Paris @iamcheikhkebe
“It’s rare to find festivals that celebrate black culture, especially in Europe. This year I decided to come because it’s fun and I like to embrace my blackness.
Angel, Paris (@emelyne_spencer)
“…I live in Europe every summer because my husband is a musician, and so am I – but I’m having a baby so I’m chilling while he’s on tour. I’m with a good friend of mine in Brixton, and we met at AfroPunk Brooklyn actually! It’s kinda been like our ritual to meet at every AfroPunk.”
Sahida, Australia, (@sahida_apsara)
“I heard AfroPunk Paris was the best.”
“…like she said, I heard it was the best and that’s where a lot of people come together as a community.”
“I just wanna find my own people…and represent the Somali demographic!”
“You don’t see the Somali community on the website.”
“We were just like, you know what guys we’re gonna represent the community!”
“We just went to a small tailor and said ‘Do something with our traditional fabric but make it modern.”
Sara, Mariam & Sagal Bafo, London
“I’m here to see Ibeyi, Solange, and Janelle Monae. It was a solo trip but I met her (Demtria) yesterday. It’s been a great time.”
“This is my first time! I actually love it and I will continue to come back again.”
Titi Naomi Tukes & Demetria, Miami
Images by Ayanna Sharif
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