First Thursdays

The trend of First Thursdays has spread like wildfire across the uncivilized world. The first Thursday of every month finds artisanal people selling their artisanal wares to the public who have no idea what a Framboise is and why you would call a beer that.

They vary from place to place but they tend to have the same common features. These are:

  1. Art
  2. Music
  3. Food
  4. Callously Dressed Young people

Durban is no different.

There are now several locations around Durban which do First Thursdays. However, by far and away the most popular are the events held in Station Drive and Florida Road. Station Drive particularly has the venue waxed as a large block of industrial offices transforms into art spaces and eateries in the evening. The anchor tenant is S43, a restaurant come lounge with a sumptuous interior and attached brewery (sorry… distillery… Distillery 031 to be precise).

Smells like Tekwini Spirit

I found myself enjoying a quiet whiskey as the revelry started. Around me were hip young things who I had no possibility of understanding. Clothes were chosen at random from thrift stores owned by time travelers. Accessories and tattoos were a must, as well as hair designed by Tim Burton’s garden sheers. This celebration of art and aesthetic living brought out the trendy nightlife Durban had to offer. Takkies were canvas, shoes were velt and everything was beautiful or ironic or both or neither. I dipped the toes of my ears into the conversations around me. Usual stuff. Work, movies and series were the zeitgeisty menu items of discussion. This is a celebration of creativity. Understandably the young would lead the way.

You then work your way through the cool night air to the next venue on offer – an art installation. Up several flights of stairs, a young artist had displayed prints celebrating a vibrant color palate. In a wonderfully neutral space there were pops of elegantly designed graphics set against plain white walls and wine-lit laughter. Again, the young people were there. This time around they could hear each other. They stood in precious circles commenting on the artists designs and the weather. The older they become the more their topics of conversation will expand. New subjects will make their way into their analysis of the anonymous artists work. They will start saying things like “self-aware” and “truism”. The oldest of them will also say things like “my knees hurt” and “this wine is uncomfortably warm”. “Where are the damn chairs?” will also factor into the conversation at some stage.

The new Google logo was a lot to process.

As is always the case with these events. There are places to buy food. The usual stands make their presence known. Burger stops, falafel, beer carts and more. The First Thursday in Station Drive even has its own gelato, compliments of Momenti – a local startup where the ice-cream is as tempting as a dinner with Ray Wise.

Which brings us to the elephant in the room: the shops. The stores tend to rotate out of their spaces with a few remaining stalwarts. There was a bric-a-brac antiques dealer who sold nothing for a very long time. I was often entertained at stuffed sloths and lit-up friezes of Chinese peasants among his wares. I believe this is no more. The floor space is now going to new, small ventures. There are likewise other contemporary shops which one can choose from. Delicate jewelers vie for your attention between micro-tattoo parlors and vintage clothing stores. There is enough variety to spoil your senses as well as a prospect of making that shopping “find” which thrills thrift store enthusiasts the world over.

This is what you are called if you tag Vin Diesel in a post.

Naturally there is art. A good rule of thumb is that if it is on a wall it’s for sale. Many tastes are accommodated with the preference leaning more toward afro-chic and designer prints. Taking your pick from small to large. Trinkets, baubles and more will vie for your attention among the artisanal curiosities sold alongside these pictures. It is a feast for the senses, made even more so by the presence of a cold beer in the hand.

Have I mentioned booze yet? I probably should.

Station Drive offers a wide range of liquor to imbibe. If your poison of choice is good old caffeine, there are enough options for coffees and the odd tea to power you through your next inter-dimensional vibrathon. Otherwise bars stock gin on tap, craft beers and the standard range of SAB favorites which have been responsible for all-thumbs dalliances in bathroom stalls. There are cocktails, mocktails and drinks with pretty pictures on them. I have never seen a First Thursday degenerate into a drunken brawl. It speaks volumes for the element of sophistication which combining art and alcohol produces. That sounded horribly sarcastic. It was not.

Considering that this is still a relatively new event (it has barely existed for a few years), I am curious to see what the institution of First Thursdays will become. More and more artists of all walks (that includes musicians and performers) are having their moment to shine at Station Drive. It is nice to know that there is an event where the only responsibility I have is to simply go and look. I can buy what I like if I like it or simply walk around with my hands behind my back enjoying all the pretty things. I do not mean it disparagingly when I say it feels like an Instagram mentality which takes over these events. That is probably the point. Why can’t a social function be nothing more than a celebration of beautiful senses?

This certainly is.

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