If it wasn’t for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, there might never have been an African Hip Hop Indaba.
Okay, okay, maybe there’s a bit of hyperbole in that opening line, but it is partly true.
The annual African Hip Hop Indaba, which takes place at Zula Sound Bar and the Good Hope Centre this weekend, was founded by Emile YX Jansen after an encounter with the former first lady of post-apartheid South Africa.
Jansen, who is also a founding member of hip hop veterans Black Noise, as well as a judge on e.tv’s Step Up or Step Out, explained what planted the seed for the Indaba, over tea in a Cape Town eatery.
“Initially, Black Noise were invited to take part in the Battle “ of the Year World Breakdancing Championships in the early Nineties,” remembers Jansen.
“I think Winnie Mandela was the Deputy Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology and she was put in charge of organising the money for our flights overseas. So in the paperwork they give you when the government flies you anywhere, there is a statement that says this money belongs to the citizens of South Africa so whoever uses it needs to plough it back into the country. I took that part really seriously. So when I came back from Battle of the Year (Black Noise placed third) I went around teaching breakdancing to kids.”
The next year, Jansen took a child from Mitchells Plain along to the Battle of the Year and: “I saw the positive impact that that experience had on him and after that, I hosted the first national elimination in South Africa.”
The elimination contest saw breakdancers from the Western Cape vie for the opportunity to compete against the best of the best at Battle of the Year.
For many of the 12 years that the African Hip Hop Indaba has existed, it has acted as a social platform for the community, but also as a fundraising event to raise money for flights, accommodation and more for African dancers to participate in Battle of the Year.
This time around, and spearheaded by Shaquille Southgate and Emile YX’s brother, Tanswell Jansen, the point of the indaba is less international and more internal. Now, the money that would have taken a b-boy crew overseas is used as payment for a few established dancers to teach breakdancing to kids who wouldnot usually have access to the attitude-altering culture of b-boying.
Part of that money also serves as prize money (R10 000 to R15 000) for the winning dance crews, rappers and individuals who excel in these hip hop disciplines.
To see dancers and rappers from across the country and even Namibia and Zimbabwe, be at the battles on Friday and the family friendly showcase that includes workshops and graffiti displays all of Saturday.
This article appeared in the Tonight on 12 September 2013.