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Afrikan hip-hop caravan

The Afrikan Hip-Hop Caravan was organized by a number of collectives — Soundz of the South (South Africa), Uhuru Network (Zimbabwe) and Wasanii Mtaani (Kenya) — to allow thousands of young people to experience Hip-Hop Culture at its finest: as an elevating form of expression — a creative and revolutionary, counterforce to all forms of oppression.

The idea of organizing regional Hip Hop events and creating a network of like-minded artists, activists and collectives has been raised and discussed in different forms in several circles for a number of years.  This particular initiative — The Afrikan Hip-Hop Caravan — has its
roots in conversations amongst political arts collectives and activists at the 2011 World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal. In this meeting, as well as the ones that followed, it was recognized that there was a strong need for political arts collectives that are dedicated to Hip-hop’s original vision as the voice of the oppressed to interlink and organize to strengthen the conscious and political Hip-hop movement on the continent.

In fact, for the founding members of the Caravan, Hip-hop is an acronym standing for ‘Her Infinite Power Helping Oppressed People’ and, in its essence, is understood as a counterculture that is valued for its potential to build revolutionary consciousness and challenge the values of the ruling class.

Thus, the key aims of the project are:

(1) to build a sense of agency and self-empowerment among politically-conscious, community-based street artists, who often due to challenging socio-economic realities and political repression feel marginalized and isolated;

(2) to transcend borders to enable artists, activists and communities to share their skills, resources, organization and struggle experience, as well as to build a sustainable network amongst them.

(3) in order to create an alternative platforms for dialogue between activists,artists and communities.

The Afrikan Hip-Hop Caravan, which strives to be an annual movement-building event, kick-started in Cape Town on February 13th 2013 and subsequently moved to Johannesburg, Harare and Nairobi. As part of this, there was week of performances and educational events in each city. The final event in the 2013 Caravan will took place at the World Social Forum in Tunis from the 26th to the 30th of March.

Although the program slightly varied in each of the four cities, the key organizing collectives hosted shows in working-class neighborhoods and a Hip-Hop Symposium.

The aim of the shows was to offer a platform to cultural activists who fight against oppression and speak about socially-relevant issues afflicting their communities and therefore often find themselves literally ‘in the underground’. The vision of the Hip-hop Symposium was to offer a unique space to scholars, cultural practitioners and civil society's activists to debate the state of African Hip-Hop by exploring a whole range of topics, including Hip-hop’s relevance to youth empowerment, identity, and revolution.

In Cape Town, Soundz of the South opened the Afrikan Hip-Hop Caravan with a Symposium at Community House on February 13th. This event was followed by two Hip-hop shows: a Hip-hop Slam on February 15th at Zula Bar in the city center and an afternoon Hip-Hop Concert at Lookout Hill in Khayelitsha on February 17th. In Johannesburg, the coordinating committee convened a Hip-hop Symposium and Slam at the Goethe Institute on February 20th. At the next leg, in Harare, Uhuru Network convened a Symposium and Hip-Hop Café at the University of Zimbabwe on February 27th as well as a Hip-Hop Show at Book Café on March 1. In the same week, the host collective in Nairobi organized four events – two shows and two symposium – in different neighborhoods across Nairobi: Ngara, Mathare, Kangemi and Kibera, the largest so-called urban slum in Africa. In addition, Wasanii Mtaani will be hosting a Hip-Hop Symposium at the local chapter of the Goethe Institute on April 18th.

In line with the Caravan’s vision to promote revolutionary Hip-hop and to empower local cultural activists, activists from Uhuru Vibes (Zimbabwe), Ukooflani (Kenya) and Soundz of the South (South Africa) performed at the different shows in the four different cities. At the events in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Harare, there were also performances by U.S.-based cultural activists Mic Crenshaw and DJ Klavical, which were in line with the Caravan’s aim of linking up with comrades globally to take forward the struggle against capitalism. At the five symposia, a balanced number of artists, scholars and activists shared their views on African Hip-Hop. Indeed, the ensuing debates highlighted the need to theoretically explore Hip-hop culture and to create a platform that facilitates a dialogue between academics, practitioners and cultural activists.

Since 2014, the Caravan has made its way to Tanzania, (2014 and 2015)The United States (2015), Europe (2017) and aims to see Cuba in May of 2018. The founders hope that the Afrikan Hip-Hop Caravan continues to grow, that in the process the borders of Africa are transcended by activists and that the Caravan reaches as many as the globe can handle.

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