A vortex of colour and sound surrounded the 10 000-strong crowd at the Holi One Festival on the Grand Parade on Saturday. Originally a Hindu festival, Holi celebrates spring and fertile land. As a celebration filled with colour and fun, throwing powdered paint in a variety of colours has become iconic to this joy-filled festival.
The idea has spread to Germany, USA and Singapore, with South Africa being the latest addition. It has been re-titled Holi One, the latter word pinned to the end in order to distinguish it from the traditional Hindu festival and to separate it from any religious connotations, while still honouring the sprit of togetherness, fun and ‘oneness’. Holi One started its South Africa chapter in Cape Town, with Joburg and Durban on the agenda for later in the year, placing the country firmly on the Holi map. The Cape Town festival took place at the Grand Parade in the heart of town with Table Mountain and city buildings, new and old, creating a magnificent backdrop. The weather was faultless which considering Cape Town’s tempestuousness, as well as the nature of the event, was worthy of a celebration in itself.
Participants were encouraged to wear white, as they do for traditional Holi festivals, so as to better show the powdered paint which spills everywhere and streaks everything so that the crowd rapidly becomes an amorphous mass of different hues – clothing, hair and every inch of skin smattered with pink, yellow, green, blue and orange.
The powder is environmentally friendly and non-toxic and there were bins everywhere to dispose of any powder bags or other litter. On that note, the whole event was incredibly well organised. Every area, from bars and powder areas to toilets and medics were clearly demarcated. There was plenty to eat and drink, including curry rotis and samoosas in a nod to the festival’s Indian origins. There were even clothes on sale, brightly-coloured of course, as well as face masks for those seeking protection against powder entering their mouths, eyes and nose – which will happen if you are in the middle of the action in the powder area.
The music never stopped, drawing people to dance under a coloured sky and beating sun and on into the relative cool of a Cape Town night. The extensive line-up included DJ Mighty, Richard the Third, Mix n Blend and Niskerone, as well as German DJ Super Flu. The powder throwing started at 2pm with MC comedian Pete Sserwanga riling up the crowd and counting down every hour on the hour for each powder throw. Belly dancers sashayed across the stage, adding further colour, vibrancy and entertainment to the mix.
Though a whole lot of fun and superbly well managed, the event’s focus was arguably too narrow. As a festival celebrating a spirit of togetherness it squarely hit its target: everyone partying together and connecting as one on the dance floor for the hourly countdowns. But a bit more variety in terms of entertainment, and most specifically the music, is something which can be worked on for next year. Because surely, judging by the response, the festival will become a firm fixture on the Cape Town calendar.
Holi One Cape Town took place on 2 March 2013 and will take place in Joburg on 6 April 2013. Durban dates to be confirmed.