Over the years, incidents of xenophobia have broken out sporadically across South Africa, most infamously in 2008 and more recently in 2015. In response to this, musicians are taking a leading role in fighting xenophobia, or more specifically Afrophobia – an unwillingness to engage with the rest of the continent.
Who Are We Africa is a multi-disciplinary campaign that aims to highlight our similarities as Africans in the hope of changing mindsets around xenophobia and Afrophobia. Apart from changing perceptions around African identity, the campaign aims to celebrate Afrophilia - the love of Africa, its cultures and peoples.
The project is the brainchild of Molefi Makananise, bassist for the internationally renowned band BLK JKS, who explained his vision for Who Are We Africa: “As multicultural as we are in South Africa, nationalities from all over the continent exist in their own clusters - there is very little cross-cultural social interaction happening. I came up with the idea to use what I know best - the entertainment business - to spark these conversations and subsequent solutions.
"Having been all over the world as a musician, travelling with the BLK JKS, I felt it was time for me to work towards more collaboration and interaction with artists from all over the continent," added Molefi.
The ongoing Who Are We Africa campaign aims to "task communities to become champions of social cohesion" through creating awareness and stimulating conversations around tolerance, while being a conduit for Afrophilia.
Who Are We Africa was launched on 30 January 2016 at The Breytenbach Theatre in Sunnyside, Pretoria. The day featured an assortment of activities, including performances by notable jazz pianist and educator Andile Yenana, Les Fantastiques Guys (DRC), the Storm Drum Ensemble (SA), dancer Oscar Buthelezi (SA), Aaron Le Metsoalle (Lesotho), poet Mbali Kgosidintsi (Botswana) and visual artist Happy Dhlame (SA). Meanwhile students from the nearby Thswane University of Technology (TUT) helped stage an Afrocentric market of fashion, photography, art and film, as well as food from all over the continent. Tefo Mohapi of iAfrikan was also invited to deliver an address shedding light on their Report Xenophobia project. The launch event of this ongoing campaign was funded by Pro Helvetia, the Swiss cultural agency.
The event was a resounding success, with the organisers later announcing on social media: “We cannot forget the amazingly happy audience that made the day meaningful. We are grateful and we thank you all. May the Afrophilia Gods bless your minds, warm your hearts and shine your paths all the way.”