This weekend South Africa’s most beautiful city, Cape Town, took the idea of a Rainbow Nation to a whole new level…
Steph (@StephanieBe) told me about the Holi One festival months ago, and after looking at pictures of what it could possibly look like, I was hooked right in. However, with me being the forgetful Yorkshireman that I am, I buggered up and forgot to buy a ticket, it was only the day before, thanks to Dylan, or @MrCPT as you may know him, that I got sorted out.
The colours, the vibe, the sheer idea of the event had me wishing away the months hoping for the event to arrive early from the moment Steph brought it to my attention, and boy, when the time came for us to get involved it certainly delivered.
I’m not sure that there any backdrops in the world as beautiful as Table Mountain. Add to that 100s, maybe 1000s, of smiling Capetonians dressed in their all white PEP specials, a beautiful sunny day and impeccable organisation, it gives you a winning combination.
As Steph and I walked in it took around 37 seconds before a complete random took it upon themselves to don us in our first colour, orange if I remember rightly, and within the hour we looked like Elmer the Elephant.
The event, MC’d by the ever charming Peter Sserwanga, is inspired by India’s original Holi, a celebration of the coming of spring, which sees its participants layer themselves with 10-tonne of coloured powder and basically just let their inhibitions bugger off. If any of you have been lucky to watch the first season of Idiot Abroad then you’ll have had the pleasure of watching Karl Pilkington take part in one of India’s Holis. The one in Cape Town was a bit like that, just with more drink and less clothes.
The music was great, the drinks reasonably priced and the people happy, it all made for a great day out. In all seriousness I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like it in my life, and I’ve done my fair share of travelling. On the hour, every hour, each person involved grabs a handful of a coloured powder of their choice and lobs it up into the air.
If you’re on the inside it engulfs you like a sandstorm, a ridiculously colourful sandstorm. If you’re not careful it also manages to get in your drinks, your mouth and any other crevice that you may have unfortunate enough to have left open at the wrong time…
If you’re on the outside however, it’s far more beautiful. The view goes from nothing, to a flurry of coloured patches, to your whole field of vision being engulfed by tiny particles of rainbow as the many different powders merge into one in mid-air. They linger there for a while and then disappear, either dropping back to earth or floating off elsewhere.
The beauty and originality of the event was one thing, but for me, and maybe even more impressive, was the fact that it’s been a long time since I’ve been somewhere in Cape Town where so many people seemed so at peace with each other.
If I’m honest, I wasn’t sure how well the festival would go down in the Mother City. Usually, if a random who’s not known to a certain ‘clique’, pelted someone with enough blue powder to make them look like Papa Smurf, I think they’d probably be in a bit of bother. However, this weekend nobody seemed to care. People were sharing out their different colours, planting handprints on boobs, bums and other body parts and just letting loose as they revelled in what could possibly be a once in a lifetime gig for many of them.
There was even a pregnant woman there, who was apparently due in about three days time, and honestly, she looked as though she may well have ended up giving birth to a very confused, multi-coloured baby. I’m not sure her doctors would have approved…
Steph and I got home having wandered the streets of Cape Town looking like we’d been dressed by a survivor of Woodstock Music Festival and dove into the shower to see if any lasting damage had been done to our skin. Luckily it does all wash off, although the water that comes off you is a similar colour to the Green Lantern’s suit and you have to wash your hair around 476 times in order to make sure that you don’t resemble Jeff Hardy.
One last thing. There was an awesome mix of people there. Folks of all ages, shapes, races and religions, and do you know what? When you’re covered head to toe in every colour under the sun, everyone looks the same.
It’s another big middle finger to those cretins out there that still believe that race is an issue. If you cover us all in cornflour we’re all pretty damn similar.
It was amazing, you couldn’t see white people, you couldn’t see black people, you couldn’t even tell that I was the pale Englishman who has failed to pick up any form of tan yet. Actually, come to think about it, everyone was coloured…
– Joe Crann @YesWeCrann