Event organiser, Tshepiso Leeu, told Eyewitness News this is why events like the Rock the City LGBTI+ Festival are important – they represent freedom.
The 2022 Rock the City LGBTI+ Festival. Picture: 6 Band Events.
JOHANNESBURG – We live in a world where members of the LGBTI+ community are threatened, harassed, and at times killed.
In a number of countries, identifying as queer is forbidden, and frowned upon and events like Pride cannot go ahead without a heavy police presence.
Event organiser, Tshepiso Leeu, told Eyewitness News that this was why events like the Rock the City LGBTI+ Festival are important – they represent freedom.
“This year’s theme is ‘Unapologetically Queer’. We are super proud of our journey as a queer brand, and we know there are people who are equally proud of their own journeys, and we want to encourage more people to embrace their queerness, to live their truth and never apologise to anyone for being who you they are,” said Leeu.
The fourth annual event will take place on 1 April at Victoria Yards.
READ: LGBTI festival is a place to call home in a world of threats and violence
Rock The City LGBTI+ Festival is a lifestyle event celebrating queer artists, music, food, arts and entertainment in the LGBTI+ community. The festival sees some of the best LGBTIQ+ artists and mainstream artists performing in a queer-curated space where queer people can gather and enjoy themselves.
“I’ve been so blessed to have a mother that wants to see me win no matter which path I choose. She’s my biggest fan, knows all my songs, so her reaction was never negative, and I never take that for granted. I wish more kids had parents who supported them,” said SA hip-hop artist DeekayDidIt.
Zamasihi ‘DeekayDidIt’ Madlala is one of the artists who will be performing at Rock the City LGBTI+ Festival. The rapper from KwaZulu-Natal identifies as a heteronormative industry.
“There are a few things I’d like to see a change in this industry. I would want the industry as a whole to be more honest and less predatory. The deals offered to newly signed artists are stacked against them contractually and financially in ways no other industry permits or would tolerate. The artist gets paid last and least,” said DeekayDidIt to Eyewitness News.
Leeu said that the upcoming festival is a platform that aims to showcase LGBTIQ talents, art, crafts, business and create platforms for LGBTI+ visibility.
“As queer people, we felt the need to create a space where queer people can meet and share such wonderful experiences within a safe and supportive space. It’s amazing to see this dream live on four years later despite the challenges we face when putting the event together – so big ups to the queer community for making sure that this festival happens each year since its inception,” said Leeu.
According to the European Union, three out of five African countries have laws criminalising homosexuality and the public expression of sexual or gender behaviour that does not conform with heterosexual norms.
“What’s happening in Uganda is the violation of not just LGBTI rights but human rights. Violence and attacks on gay people are attacks on humans,” said Leeu.
Recently, the Ugandan parliament approved sweeping anti-gay legislation and under the new rules, anyone who engages in same-sex activity or identifies as LGBT+ could face up to 10 years in prison.
“What is wrong with loving who you want to love, who are you harming? How can they criminalise love? And sadly, this promotes hate, more attacks and more killings and really pushes away from a future with no hate. As South Africa, we stand in solidarity with the LGBTIQ+ community of Uganda,” said Leeu.
South Africa is the only African country that has legalised same-sex marriage, and our Constitution protects against anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination. But violence against LGBTQ+ people remains common.
We are at Rock The City Queer Festival celebrating who we are
On stage @Kamo_mphelaxx @NdiePretty @Nadia_nakai @djbiskit_za
Serving hot vibes only🔥🏳️🌈
Be sure to secure your tickets at R150 before the 26th of March otherwise R200/R250 gets you in https://t.co/YNCf1nzAoG pic.twitter.com/5fS1nmPMhz
‘ 6Band Events_Queer Spaces 🏳️🌈 (@Just_tshepi) March 23, 2023