Cape Town – It was 26 years ago when Cape Town celebrated its first Gay Pride event. Although much has changed, there are many tests ahead.
The festival has been marred with challenges ranging from date changes to an inability to host and tensions over the alleged exclusion of people of colour, particularly black lesbians.
In 2017, a number of organisations came forward to criticise the organisers for the event’s alleged lack of diversity and inclusion. To right the wrongs of the past, festival director Matthew van As told Weekend Argus that “Cape Town Pride always strives to be as diverse and inclusive as possible”.
“We make sure of this through our partner groups and stakeholders that participate in Pride – 2018 was the most diverse and inclusive event in the history of Cape Town Pride,” Van As said.
Although there was a “pretty high level of acceptance” within the urban areas of the city, more needed to be done to “fight for the rights and shed light on to what is happening to brothers and sisters in the informal settlements”, he said.
“Tolerance is reasonably limited to one’s socio-economic situation, where you live and other factors. It’s easy for a Green Point gay to say that life is great – but he doesn’t live in Philippi and go out in Parow. It’s one thing to have protection under the law, but another to have that filter down to mainstream society,” Van As said.
“The Cape Town Parade and Mardi Gras is destined to be the jewel in that Cape Town calendar for 2019. The parade, the biggest we’ve ever seen, will start with 16 floats and walking groups that will include NGOs, religious groups, minstrel bands and Pride supporters. The parade will start in Prestwick Street and move towards Reddam Field at Green Point Urban Park,” he added.
The festival will take place on Saturday, with the theme “I am Me. No Excuses and No Regrets”. It will have performances by top international and local acts, including Ceri Dupree, Jimmy Nevis, Craig Lucas, Manila von Teez, Zoe Zana, 3D, Latheem Grabriel, 4 Tons of Fun and The Trolly Dollies.
It all began on October 13, 1990, when the first annual pride was held in Johannesburg, with Cape Town following suit three years later, and a number of challenges along the way. In December 2001, a seven-day event was marred by a protest by local pro-life organisations outside the Church of the Sacred Heart in Somerset Road where a Gay Pride “Dignity and Diversity” Interfaith Service was being held.
Cape Town Pride was not held in 2003, when the event timing was moved to February.
In 2006, the event adopted the theme “Uniting Cultures of Cape Town”, in 2007 “The Carnival of Love”, in 2009 “Pink Ubuntu – Uniting Cultures of Cape Town”, and in 2011 “Love Our Diversity”.
Co-founder of Cape Town Pride Ian McMahon said they didn’t expect the festival to draw such large diverse crowds. “It was initially held at this time as it was felt that MCQP (Mother City Queer Project) was a large drawcard to Cape Town. We were the first pride in SA in 2005 to host a parade in a so-called township area, in Gugulethu, where a man from the Federation of Gay Games brought a flag to lead the parade there in Gugs.”
McMahon was a founding chairperson in 2001, until he resigned in 2009 to chair the Pride Shelter Trust.
He also chairs De Waterkant Civic Association, which hosts the Gay Village, and is a partner in Crew Bar and MCQP, which has taken place since 1994.