Jo’burg came alive with colour this weekend as the world’s biggest colour festival touched down on Mzanzi soil. It was a sight to behold as the first burst of colour was released into the air at the We Are One Colour Festival (previously known as Holi One), which quickly proved to be quite a liberating hourly ritual as the white-clad 15 000-strong crowd was coloured in the most majestic hues.

Known around the world as Holi One, the event was inspired by the Hindu festival Holika Dahan, which commemorates the arrival of spring each year with people throwing fistfuls of brightly hued powder at each other.

In Jo’burg, a kaleidoscopic cloud of colour hung in the air like a swarm of locusts after each countdown on the hour, every hour. It eventually settled in revellers nostrils, caking their lungs and reducing their hair to the texture of straw.

The crowd was made up of a number of guys who took the opportunity to reveal their finely chiselled physiques by wearing nothing but micro-shorts. For the girls, the prevailing trend was equally small butt cheek-revealing shorts and complaints about having dust wedged in every crevice of their bodies. There was, of course, a throng of odd individuals, like the dazed one who sat in the middle of a busy flock of people nursing an injured foot and another who walked around with joined hands saying “namaste” to everyone he passed.

Entertainment was provided by the likes of Sadhu Sensi, DJ Danger Ingozi, DJ Mighty, Michael Lesar, DJ Babaganoush, Richard The Third and Kid Fonque.

Electro swing DJ Toby2shoes compared the event to a bunch of five-year-olds throwing paint at each other. “Why isn’t every party an outdoor party? Why isn’t there colour at every party? It just creates such a f*****g vibe,” he said.

After a while, the dazzling splashes of intense colour started blending into a dirty brown. But as the sun went down, the energy of the crowd heightened and became almost palpable as electro swing and dance group Goodluck took to the stage. They revved up the crowd for the countdown at 19:00 with vocalist Jules Harding’s magnetic stage presence and a friendly competition between the saucy saxophone and the thumping beat of the drums. As the huge timer displayed on the stage ticked closer to the hour, Harding yelled an excited “yeehah” and We Are One was colourful once more.

“It’s so not really about what we do, or about what the DJs do. It’s about what the people out there do. They come together and get colourful and get silly and it’s really awesome,” Harding told Perdeby. “I feel like I’m being entertained, instead of the other way round.”

Photos: Brad Donald and Eleanor Harding

– We Are One or Holi One?-

We Are One Colour Festival organiser’s have said that the event is merely an expression of the freedom and colour of everyday life and not meant as an imitation of the original religious one.

In an effort to distance themselves further from the religious ambiguities of the Holi festival, the organisers decided to rename it “We Are One” after the Cape Town event was criticised by Ashwin Trikamjee, the president of the South African Maha Sabha, who condemned the commercialisation of the religious festival.

Manuela de Deus, sponsorship director for One-Eyed Jack, says the Indian Consulate and the head of the Maha Sabha in Durban were informed of the event in advance and did not object to it. “Everybody understands that it’s not trying to trivialise the religion. It’s actually, if anything, celebrating it and making people aware of what happens in other countries,” she said.

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