Brixton Light Festival Magic

by | Feb 8, 2022 | Arts and Culture, Brixton, Johannesburg, Melville and Surrounds, Music/Festivals | 16 comments

Johannesburg is not an easy place in which to exist. We’ve got electricity problems and water problems and crime problems. Obtaining a visa to live in South Africa is a near-impossible task that keeps getting harder. I don’t like to admit this, but sometimes I wonder why I still live here.

But inevitably, right at the moment when I begin to lose hope, something like the Brixton Light Festival happens and I realize I’d be a fool to live anywhere else.

Brixton Light Festival sign
Brixtonites in front of the Brixton Light Festival sign.

I moved to Brixton four months ago and I already knew what a vibrant neighborhood it is, filled with talented, diverse, deeply creative people. I’d seen beautiful pictures of last year’s Brixton Light Festival so I knew this year’s event would probably be just as fabulous. Also I was tangentially involved in preparations for this year’s festival and thought I had a good idea of what was to come.

But nothing could have prepared me for the real thing, which happened on Sunday night, or how it would make me feel. The Brixton Light Festival was, literally, electrifying. I’m still electrified now, 48 hours later.

Brixton Tower lit up for the Brixton Light Festival
Here’s what I mean by electrified: The Brixton Tower was actually glowing, undulating with light like a lava lamp.
Brixton Tower in blue
Another shot of the electrified tower, whose look kept changing.
Little girl with lit-up umbrella
The festival guests were also lit. This little girl’s name is Ayanda and her family wins the 2Summers award for best dressed at the Light Festival.
Disco ball in ARO exhibit
There were disco balls, of course.
Sculpture by Neil Mostert
An electrified sculpture by Brixton artist Neil Mostert.
Ward counsillor Bridget Steer at the Brixton Light Festival
Bridget Steer, Brixton’s ward councillor, in a lit-up party hat.
Blurry dancers at the festival
I was so electrified that many of my images look more like messy watercolors than photographs. This photo portrays the incredible dancers from the Field Band Foundation.
Brixton Kerk lit up for the festival
Another electric moment: The spectacular band uKhoiKhoi performs in front of the spectacularly lit Brixton Kerk Church. Unfortunately this is about as close as I could get to the band — another testament to the success of the festival. The star sculptures on the roof are by artist Gordon Froud.

What Is the Brixton Light Festival?

The first Brixton Light Festival happened in December 2020 and it will henceforth be an annual event. The festival is planned and run by volunteers in the community and is purely a celebration of Brixton’s creative spirit.

The theme of this year’s festival was “Creatures of the Light” and it was postponed and rescheduled twice, due to Omicron and bad weather. Lots of people worked their butts off to make it happen, for little or no financial compensation. But I need to especially recognize the two Badass Queens of the Brixton Light Fest, Tamzyn Botha (Limb) and Sophia Welz. These women are visionaries and they created something utterly unique and joyful under the most trying of circumstances. I’m in awe of (perhaps slightly obsessed with) Tamzyn and Sophia and their badass festival vibes.

Tamzyn and Sophia at the festival
Tamzyn (left) and Sophia (right) at the start of the festival. Sophia’s arm must have been so tired after this festival; she was holding up that umbrella like a badass Mary Poppins for the several hours straight.
Psychedelic photo of Tamzyn and Sophia
Psychedelic messy watercolor portrayal of Tamzyn and Sophia in the alley on the parade route.

Brixton Light Festival: The Lineup

The festival started late in the afternoon in Kingston Frost Park, where participants mingled and ate local food and admired the parade floats.

Decorated tree in Kingston Frost Park
Late afternoon light filters through the decorated trees in Kingston Frost Park.
Giraffe parade float
My favorite parade float, which, like all the floats, was made from recycled materials by the kids at Shade, an arts program that Tamzyn runs in Brixton.
Sparkly pants at the festival
Shiny festival pants.
ARO installation at Brixton Light Festival
Artist Natalie Paneng created this stunning interactive installation inside an African Reclaimers Organization (ARO) truck. ARO, an association of Joburg’s reclaimers (people who work in the informal recycling trade), has a strong presence in the Brixton community.
Magical festival light
Beautiful people and magical festival light.

Then the parade kicked off at nightfall, with a Pantsula performance and the Brixton Tower lighting.

Pantsula group
The Bhizzo Boys Pantsula group.
Brixton Tower lit up
One more tower shot.

Once the parade really got going I went totally mad, running up and down the street and weaving among the hordes of people, nearly falling/knocking over others, and shooting messy watercolors as I cried tears of unadulterated joy. I wasn’t alone, either. The Brixton Light Festival parade was a full-on frenzy of unadulterated joy.

Elzabé Zietsman, formerly of Zietsies, and pianist Tony Bentel performed opera from a towering rooftop. Masked ghosts fluttered behind burglar bars at a house on Chiswick Street, then reappeared later crouching above a street mural on Barnes Road. Red smoke poured through Breezeblock‘s front door at the corner of Chiswick and Fulham, where the Field Band and its whirling dervishes burst onto the scene. The House of Iranti was lit up like a giant rainbow.

Elzabe Zietsman
Elzabé’s opera happened too high up for my camera lens to reach. But I did take a lovely photo of her carrying toilet paper before the festival started.
Katlego Makamane installation
I’m annoyed that I ran right past this great installation by Katlego Makamane during the parade. But here’s a photo of Katlego (right) and her friends getting it ready. You can see a picture of the completed installation in this post by James Puttick (6th frame).
Dancers outside Breezeblock
The dervishes outside Breezeblaock.
Dervishes at Breezeblock
I couldn’t get enough of them.
Field Band in Brixton
The band.
Joyous dancers at the Brixton Light Festival
Brixton joy.
Rainbow lights at Iranti
House of Iranti.
Ghosts of Barnes Road
The ghosts of Chiswick Street and Barnes Road: A performance by the Johannesburg School of Mask and Movement Theatre.

The parade surged down the alleyway near the corner of Wimbledon and Barnes, which was filled with art made specifically for the festival.

ARO guy and float in the Brixton alley
My favorite float rolls down the alley in front of a painting by my talented boyfriend, Thorsten, a.k.a. @TheThinking_Hand.

It was really crowded in the alley and I wasn’t able to photograph the exhibitions very well. So I’ll share some alley photos that I took before the festival started:

Thorsten painting his sketch
Thorsten (pictured above), who loves to sketch Brixton scenes, worked with a team of “alley sketchers” to reproduce his small sketches into wall-sized paintings.
Brixton scene painted in the alley
Abstract Brixton landscapes.
Steve painting a toilet
These alleys were originally used for disposal of “night soil” (a polite term for human waste) so there is a recurrent poo theme in the sketches. Here, artist Stephen Kwee Mware paints a man reading on the toilet.
Yucca painting in the alley
Deviating from the poo theme, Liberty Lungelo paints a beautiful yucca plant.
Shade monkey pic
Shade pictures in the alley
Pieces of the Shade alley exhibition, including collaborative pieces made with @blk.bannana.
Shade paintings
My favorite part of the Shade exhibit.
Brixton Photo Collective
The Brixton Photo Collective had a great exhibition of fabric-printed photos in the alley. I’m excited to work with these guys on future projects. Pictured here from left to right are Nigel Kamudzi, Percy Zimuto, James Puttick, and Mpho Khosa.
Brixton Photo Collective
Brixton Photo Collective
Beautiful work by the Brixton Photo Collective.

The parade crescendoed in front of the Brixton Kerk with uKhoiKhoi. Then we continued back into Kingston Frost Park, where we enjoyed one more performance by the Field Band and a mini recital at the swing set by Moving Into Dance.

Dancers in Kingston Frost Park
The dervishes channel Lord Shiva.
Moving Into Dance in Kingston Frost Park
Dancing around the swing set.

After the last performance, Thorsten and I trudged, exhausted, back to the parade starting point and discovered with immense relief that the food vendors were still there. I had been too excited to eat before and was starved. Thank you Erica for serving us delicious lentil stew in plastic cups, and Ashley for gifting us your last roti. It was the perfect end to a perfect evening.

Thanks, Brixton, for reminding me why I keep on choosing to live in Joburg.


As I’m sure you can imagine, there were many huge contributors to the Brixton Light Festival — lighting and sound engineers, logistics consultants, security professionals, and other crew members and behind-scenes people — who I didn’t mention in this post. If any of you are reading this, please accept a massive thank on behalf of me and the hundreds of other people who are still buzzing with joy from this amazing event. (Please see this Shade Instagram post for a comprehensive list of credits.)

And thanks to these sponsors: The City of Joburg Department of Transport, the Goethe Institute, Splitbeam Gearhouse, and DWR Distribution.

If you are a potential sponsor (or anyone with money) and looking for a great Joburg cultural event to support in the future, I highly recommend you consider the Brixton Light Festival.

Lastly, please follow @BrixtonBeautiful and @Shade.Brixton for updates on future events and general good news about life in Brixton.

Boy at the light festival
The end.


  1. AutumnAshbough

    That is very cool. Hard to do justice to lights at night with photographs, but you captured so much.

    • 2summers

      Thanks! It was hard but I barely cared because I was so happy.

      • Louise

        I love everything about this post! These are honestly some of my favourite pictures you have taken in Joburg, I love them all but the little girl in the pink dress and the pantsula dancers especially. What magical vision of this city <3

        • 2summers

          It was magical! I feel like I overuse that word but what else can you call it.

  2. Caroline

    You sound so happy to be in Brixton! Thanks for sharing your amazing photos – looking forward to more beautiful Brixton pics

  3. Nancy McDaniel

    Talk abut MAGIC. and THIS captures why I TRY to get people to visit Joeys instead of just CapeTown.I always rave about the creativity that abounds in the Johannesburg area. THANK YOU for this. PLEASE try to pitch it to some tourism publications. And I am MAD about the baobab sculpture by Neil Mostert! Do you have any more information about it or him?

    • 2summers

      Hi Nancy, thanks so much. I’ll see what I can find out about Neil 🙂

  4. David+Bristow

    So wonderful, so uplifting. Cape Town is sure pretty, but Joburg has always had the buzz.

    • 2summers

      It certainly did on Sunday night.

  5. Ced Pearce

    Yes !
    Yes ! Excellent mood elevator. Top marks for the story, especially the photography under difficult conditions. Heather for Minister of Tourism !

    • 2summers

      Hahaha, I wish! Thank you.

  6. dizzylexa

    Great blog, I’m so sad I did not think of some way to attend this, next time a booking at a guesthouse close by. I’m also now convinced that the towers in Joburg should be painted similar but more funky than the cooling towers in Soweto. Wonderful what can be achieved when a community works together.

    • 2summers

      I consciously missed you during the festival — we will find a way for you to come next time! Totally agree on the towers.

  7. Lani

    I can feel your energy and your enthusiasm. Glad the Blogitechs had such a rockin’ time, xo

    • 2summers

      Thanks! We did.



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