LGBTQIA+ communities across South Africa are gathering this year to celebrate the festival and fictional country Queertopia – a world “designed by and for queer communities”.

Chosen for: Driving Diversity.

Queertopia is a Johannesburg-based festival prioritising LGBTQIA+ communities in South Africa. The idea revolves around a fictional country of the same name, and the festival even has its own flag, which is usually raised on the first day of the event. DJ Andiswa Dlamini (AN.D) and curator Kefiloe Siwisa, who’ve formed the creative partnership Other Village People, first came up with the idea for Queertopia in 2021. It wasn’t born out of nowhere; the duo also run the Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban queer party Same Sex Saturday and Grounded, which bills itself as “an intimate series of alternative experiences from hikes to dinners and everything in between”. Queertopia felt like a natural extension of their work.

“To me, Queertopia is not the beginning,” Andiswa Dlamini has explained. “It is a continuation [of] building more spaces… where we can hold our partners’ hands; where we [don’t have to] please the gaze of others; where we are because we are – and no one’s looking at [us] any differently.”

Held in November, the 2023 edition’s line-up is yet to be announced, but if past years are anything to go by, the event can last up to three days, with the party in full swing thanks to a mix of local DJs playing late into the night. For those who don’t like to party, or just want an alternative, previous editions have also featured a zen room, panel discussions and conversation circles.

Although South Africa is the most progressive country in Africa when it comes to LGBTQIA+ rights on paper – from anti-discrimination laws to marriage equality and adoption rights – homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are still rife. Queertopia is intended as a sacred space, something more than a club night, for queer people to forge connections and build solidarity. It sets the blueprint for future spaces across the African continent where LGBTQIA+ people can self-express more freely and, in the words of Queertopia’s founders, go on a journey together.

Dates are yet to be announced.