South Afrifur 2019 – Convention Report by Jako Malan
by Patch O'Furr
Thanks to Jako Malan/Erdwolf_TVL for the guest submission. Compare the update with a look back at Fred Patten’s South Afrifur 2017 con report. And check out the guest articles sent here by Duncan Piasecki for another voice from South African furry fandom. “An exciting tourist destination to international furries”? Lekker place, maan. – Patch
In 2018, the local furry convention South Afrifur – then in its second year – had the unexpected privilege of South Africa’s largest Afrikaans magazine doing an editorial on the local fandom. I did not feel it pressed on me to write an official report then. This year the local convention attracted little attention from non-furries, but in a way, I think it had reached critical momentum and I felt inspired to write about it again.
Whereas the question on every muzzle in previous years had been “Will there be another con?” and “Did we succeed?” This year, there was tangible optimism and a sense of achievement. Other questions were being asked. “How many fursuiters will there be next year?” and “How will we fit everyone into the available accomodation?”
The 80s themed convention was held from the 12th through the 15th of July at the Ekudeni retreat about an hours’ drive from Johannesburg. As with previous years, the majority of furries came from the Gauteng province – the economic and industrial heartland of South Africa. The other provinces were represented too, albeit in much smaller numbers. We were also privileged to have four international visitors – Bravura and Aninok from Switzerland as well as Kit and Trace from Nebraska in the USA.
There were many firsts at South Afrifur Con 2019. A marked increase in the number of fursuiters justified a headless lounge for the first time. There was a furry rave on Sunday evening. Measured against the number of furs who didn’t plan on attending (but did) and a noise complaint lodged by the neighboring farm, it was a success. Sketchbooks had floated around at previous cons, but they were much more prominent this year. (Locals have finally caught up!)
Yukon’s Scavenger Hunt and Pop Quiz returned and was well received. There were two panel discussions on Sunday afternoon. “How did you find the fandom” by Jessica Collie and a panel on “Diversity on the Fandom” presented by Ivic Wulfe. The latter stirred a healthy discussion and much participation from the audience.
The Artist’s Alley, which was officially held on Saturday morning, extended throughout the remainder of the weekend. It was bigger and more varied than ever before. Offerings were no longer limited to artist commissions from only a handful of local artists. There was a good selection of books, prints, stickers, jewelry… even fudge for sale. Two of the dealers had underestimated the demand and had run out of stock long before the convention was over. Sales were very good.
The social highlight was a braai at Zonki-Shebeen – a township-themed bar at the venue. Furries mingled around fire pits chatting, smoking and having drinks. Free-roaming Zebra, Springbok, Rooibok as well as other unseen night creatures watched from a careful distance as the furries talked and socialized under the southern night sky.
When time came to say goodbye on Monday morning, at least half the con’s attendees lingered – long after checkout – to help pack up Furnix’s sound system and clean the hall. The sadness was palpable. Unlike those in the other parts of the world, it would be literally a year before this particular group of friends could get together again to celebrate everything furry. In Africa.
There is talk of increasing the size of the organizing committee, with tasks needing to be delegated for the first time. Ekudeni was at about three-quarter capacity in 2019. There is talk of making use of an overflow venue (on the same grounds) should the numbers double as they did over the past two years.
The total number of attendees were fifty three. There were sixteen fursuiters (counting only full suits and partials with heads.) Though the numbers are still being calculated at this time, charitable donations to our chosen charity (Husky Rescue in Kwa-Zulu Natal) is likely to be in the early ten thousand ZAR. (About $650.)
Numbers aside, I think the 2019 convention took the first steps in bridging the gap between the different factions in the local furry community. Three times’ a charm. I think there is no longer any doubt that South Afrifur has the means, reputation and passion to pull off a successful convention.
Having silenced the skeptics, their next step would be to draw in those who’ve been actively critical of the organizing committee. There will always be clashes of personality in this fandom, but as far as furries go, there is always a greater good to account for.
A personal quest of mine would be to market South Africa as an exciting tourist destination to international furries. I’m hoping to drum up enough interest next year to fill a carriage (or bus) with furries travelling to the con from Cape Town.
On a very personal note, I was privileged enough to experience fursuiting for the first time this year. Basil Caribou was kind enough to lend me his Doug Ramses (ala Zootopia) suit. It is a well-made, good looking suit, but not one well suited for extended wear anywhere outside of Antarctica. I had a good sweat walking around with this uncooled padded ram. I participated in the Fursuit Games (organized by YoteFox) and posed for a group photo, too. Though early to say it was an awakening, it was definitely special. Also was seeing ElectroCat (EC) for the first time in about ten years and commissioning him to do a picture of me, my wife and my two kids.
Sadly, all cons come to an end. The venue was (eventually) cleared and the sweaty fursuits hung out to dry. As I crossed the Great Karoo by train on my way back to my mundane life back home, I was left with fond memories, bruised ribs (from excessive hugging) and massive amounts of inspiration my own writing. I can’t wait to see what Visionary-In-Chief Ivic and his team have in mind for next year.
– Jako Malan
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Thank you Jako for this story, and thank you to Duncan Piaseki for his earlier story on the con. A recent retweet on Patch’s Twitter, about history in furry community, motivated me to look at some of the furry history stories I have read. I have kept copies of some of the best, including the interview of Fred Patton by author Phil Geusz,, upon which I commented,
“. . . Sometimes we participate in the beginnings of cultural movements, unaware of the significance, believing that our experiences are too minor to record. Years later we are left with fallible memories, pieces of the greater stories of our nation and world, unrecorded stories that only living persons can pass on in the oral history tradition. . .”