If Alice in Wonderland ever takes a grand tour of Africa, replete with tea-guzzling hatter, fretful white rabbit and woozy dormouse, she would be hard pressed to match the merriment and pageantry of the Flamjangled Tea Party. At turns a gypsy-infused costume ball or a lakeside barn-dance, it is virtually impossible to nail down the mercurial nature of this spectacular event.
Colourful stalls, eclectic music and a flamboyant crowd made the rustic Contermanskloof wine farm the site of a superb festival. Campers could sprawl out in the sunshine or take reprieve from the heat in the nearby dam but given the charisma and energy of the performers, it was never long before guests found themselves lured back to the Tea Garden where some of South Africa’s most exhilarating talent was on display.
I was particularly thrilled to see one of my all-time favourite bands, the bluesy rock-group Machineri perform on Saturday night. They have just dropped a new album and Sannie Fox’s wraithlike but intense presence, ethereal vocals and lavish attire cast her as a Flamjangling sprite of the highest calibre.
Other immense acts included 7th Son, Bateleur, James Copeland, Ann Jangle herself, The Dollfins and Gazelle but it is Manouche that merit special mention. In some ways their performance occupied a gruelling slot, mid-way through Sunday when many revelers were still recovering from the all-night celebrations in the Living Room Tent. An impeccable and punctual wake-up call, Manouche transfixed the audience from the onset with their inimitable mixture of ‘Jazz, Swing, Folk, Tango and Waltz’ and delivered uproariously rollicking numbers such as, ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing’ and ‘I Found a New Baby’. As the risqué group peeled into their underwear, their stomping accordions and searing string-work combined with Anneli Thandeka Kamfer’s powerful, sensual voice to set the tone for an enlivened and invigorated final day.
Musical performances aside, this is one of the few events at which the crowd may have upstaged the performers and in this cosmopolitan throng I bumped into people from Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Nelspruit, the UK and even Taiwan. I salute the gentleman who spent the entirety of a scorching weekend in a blue onesie, masquerading as a hippie love-dragon, though he ultimately lost out on the Best-Dressed title to an ambitious young man who donned the visage of a vulture, capered around shirtless and flaunted expansive, mechanical wings to the glee of jubilant spectators.
With hula-hoops and hats, DJs and dinosaurs, sequined masks and tasselled umbrellas, the participants at this festival wholly embraced Oscar Wilde’s illustrious mantra that, ‘One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.’ Indeed, the Flamjangled Tea Party truly is a carnival of inspired delight. The spontaneous spirit of all involved transformed the Durbanville landscape into a surreal scene from another world or even an alternate life-time. Not only would I love to go again, but I have also been newly spurred to celebrate life in all its splendid and multifarious diversity.
The Flamjangled Tea Party took place at Contermanskloof Farm in Durbanville on 15 – 17 March 2013.