Colour Coded Clubbingby Mungo Adonis & Brendon Bosworth / 18.08.2009
It’s been 17 years since Nelson got out of jail free. Black Label ads would have us believe everything is peachy and democracy is the new black and white. Yes, come on in the water’s fine, we’ll all go down to the bar and down Jager with Eugene Terror Branch and Bantu Holomisa while gumboot dancing to riotous kwaito mash-ups of ‘Ebony and Ivory.’
Kak. We’d like to believe everything is sunshine, rainbows and group hugs, but the irascible truth is that we live in an intensely radicalised society. And where better to look for the ethnic boundaries than where inhibitions are thrown out the window as quickly as tequila is slammed down the gullet? Fuck parliament; clubs are where the real rainbow nation graft is being done. Somewhere amidst the sweat and beer, old-school racial paradigms rub up against new-school grooves and the strobe lights bleach the colour lines.
If the nation that gets gesuip together stays together, just how integrated are our clubs? Are the boere, darkies and gam really jolling together and drinking to Biko’s memory in sublime synchronicity? Cape Town’s Long Street is where the lentil-munching, Oliver Tambo-quoting guy with the manky dreads standing next to you could be white as the schneet he’s shnoefing with the ja-nooit-lank-bru spouting BEE dude in the Prada loafers. Mohammad’s boerewors stand looks like a United Nations summit (I swear that’s Kofi over there clutching his falafel and swaying to the beat).
Jo’burg is the famed watering-hole where mellow folks and mellow tunes converge. It’s cramped, crusty and cosmopolitan. Surely no-one gives a flying fuck about race here? A shimmy past the bar and on to the couple chilling at the back.
‘It’s not really a race thing, but you don’t want to be a minority when you go out,’ says Steve, a twenty-year old white dude, sipping on his beer. ‘I wouldn’t dig to take my girlfriend to a so-called black club. Lots of the whites, especially the girls, are afraid of the Zulu culture. They’re worried about safety issues.’
A legless pair of white girls, holding up the wall outside, agree.
‘We used to go to Marvel but now it’s really ghetto,’ says 22-year old Louella, wearing a low-cut top ‘Black guys love boobs and mine are really big so it’s a problem,’ she says matter-of-factly. ‘In a black club they’ll just come up and grab onto you even if you’re not booty-dancing. I mean you can just be going to the toilet and they’ll grab you.’
Seems Louella and Nicole weren’t lying. Marvel is dark. A rough headcount – three blankes. Kwanz, a sharply dressed black dude cradling an Amstel, is on the prowl in the back section. ‘Nowadays if you’ve got money you can go wherever you want,’ he says. ‘I never go after white girls; they come after me. I want to keep it that way. When a white girl comes into a black club, well you know, you’ve been restricted from that shit for so long… I want to try that shit out.’
Candice is chilling with the rest of her coloured friends outside fabled grease pit Fontana Chicken. ‘Naai, I’m keen to vibe with anybody on the dancefloor,’ she chimes. ‘Whoever can dance with you the best is going to dance with you for the rest of the night. Black, white, coloured, Indian – it doesn’t matter.’ But we all know white guys can’t dance. ‘Ja, no,’ her friends chorus. ‘They do it in their own way.’ They’re pissing themselves. ‘They move to a different rhythm and they’re in their own world. But I dance like a drunk white girl so I fit in quite well,’ Candice laughs.
Booze. Ever the social lubricant. It may blur the colour lines but it doesn’t erase them. It’s so easy to dupe ourselves into believing in a techni-colour utopia. We’re not racist. Some of our best friends are _ (kindly fill in appropriate racial epithet). You can slam as many Jager bombs as you please. They might make you want to tongue strangers, but they won’t dull the awareness of difference. A century of entrenched segregation doesn’t just disappear because white kids in Constantia are rocking Darkie T’s and Mandoza’s playing on 5FM. Without detracting from the heroic efforts of those involved in The Struggle and the significance of ‘94, the actual legwork required to realise true democracy is going to take far longer.
Until then it’s our civic duty to go out and jol with as many different types of people as possible. Fuck racial imperatives. Rhythm is a feeling, not a birthright. Get panelled and ghoen (with a condom) people that would have PW Botha convulsing in his grave. We’ve got too much to celebrate to allow silly labels to get in our way. Viva ubuntu.
All images © and courtesy Musa Nxumalo… Check Alternative-Kid Nxumalo’s blog and pics here.