Joburg Pride under fire for lack of inclusivity

Johannesburg Pride

The annual Johannesburg Pride event, which is set to take place on Saturday October 26, has come under fire due to a lack of representation of queer people of colour (QPOC) this year. 

As reported in The Citizen, the outcry comes after the announcement that the headlining acts for the event this year would be Sketchy Bongo and Locnville.

Many Twitter users from the LGBTQI+ community pointed out that there appears to be an issue around the problematic nature of having “cisgender heterosexual men with no links to the queer community” headlining the festival. 

Among the public figures who have thrown their voice behind the cause are prominent transgender model Elle Rose, as well as local drag performer Baba Ganoosh (whose real name is Wassim Simo). 

According to MambaOnline, Rose was involved in an Instagram exchange with the official Joburg Pride account where they brought up the issue of having three cisgender heterosexual men headlining. This was the response they received from the Pride account: 

“Tell you what. Before you rant your brains out on social media do yourself a favor and ask these ‘big queer artists’ why they’re not interested in performing on the Pride stage. There is only so much we as organisers can do. And lastly, these artists were sponsored to us by a music company.” [sic] 

The Pride account then goes on to say that these artists were the “ONLY artists that were interested as every single other artist said no. Why would we punt ‘queer’ artists if they themselves don’t support the community???? At the end of the day we are all human. And the bashing of twins is not acceptable since they support pride more than ‘queer’ artists do 5s.” [sic]

In a related matter, following a radio interview she did about the lack of QPOC representation at the event, IOL is reporting that Baba Ganoosh also received a personal message from Kaye Ally, Chair of Johannesburg Pride, in which she “attacked Ganoosh for her comments and stated that she would refuse to work with the drag performer in future.”

Johannesburg Pride has now issued a statement in response to the outcry. In it they deny the accusations of exclusion and apologise for the way they responded: 

“We work with artists that approach Johannesburg Pride to participate. We would like to categorically state that Johannesburg Pride is open to all who can provide their time and service on a volunteer basis because Johannesburg Pride is an unfunded entity,” the statement reads. 

“We are dependent on sponsorships so that we are able to create a safe platform with non-barriers to entry. In the past, we have been approached by artists that have refused to perform for no remuneration.”