FAKA: A celebration of queer excellence
Art duo Fela Gucci and Desire Marea are redefining SA’S black queer identity – one performance at a time.
Creative duo Fela Gucci, 27, and Desire Marea, 27, make up the cultural movement known as FAKA, which uses different art mediums to explore black queer culture in SA. After forming in 2013, their first big break came when they showcased for Bubblegum Club at Joburg’s Hazard Gallery, and they’ve since booked several music and art festivals across the world, solidifying a strong fan base that includes designer Donatella Versace. Now, having just stepped off of a three-month European tour, they’re discussing what they stand for, who inspires them and how they express their freedom.
BEHIND ALL THE GLAMOUR, WHO ARE YOU?
The glamour has been a way of reimagining ourselves beyond the violence that is perpetuated on our bodies. Queer and transgender people have always used the glamour as a form of survival – the documentary Paris Is Burning, which chronicles New York’s drag balls in the ’80s, is an example of this. These are people who were disenfranchised and rejected by society for being black, queer and trans. They created a whole culture for themselves that translated into how they navigate the world through their identities. That has been our experience, too. Our mission is to liberate ourselves and amplify the voices of our community.
WHAT LIBERATED YOU TO BE AS FREE AS YOU ARE NOW?
Our grandmothers are our biggest heroes. They survived a lot and were still able to raise us with so much love. Simon Tseko Nkoli, Bev Ditsie, K Sello Duiker, Athi-patra Ruga, Lebo Mathosa, 3Sum, Zanele Muholi and Lundi Tyamara are some of the queer people who liberated us. They made us feel represented, and that’s what we try to do for black queer people as well.
WHICH WOMEN INSPIRED YOU GROWING UP?
Brenda Fassie, Grace Jones and Lebo Mathosa were the first women who we saw express themselves in ways that were disruptive to the policing of femme and queer bodies. We draw so much strength from that.
WITH ALL THE DIFFERENT CULTURES YOU’RE EXPOSED TO, HOW DO YOU STAY ROOTED IN BEING AFRICAN?
Regardless of where we are in the world, we’ll always be African. There are certain experiences that can’t be taken away from you when you’re born and raised in Africa, especially being South African. We have a unique way of navigating life and that’s something we take with us everywhere we go.
WOULD YOU SAY SA HAS EMBRACED YOU IN THE SAME WAY YOU HAVE BEEN INTERNATIONALLY?
We have a big community of beautiful people who love and celebrate us here. At the beginning, it was only a handful of people who knew our work, almost like a cult. Some people didn’t engage with it because they thought it was strange and was something they couldn’t relate to. At the same time, we were being asked to perform in festivals in Europe and gaining a big fan base there.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES AND ADVANTAGES OF BEING ARTISTS FROM AFRICA?
The biggest challenge is not being able to have a lucrative career because there aren’t a lot of opportunities for artists. The advantage might be having a unique story to share with the rest of the world.
IN JUNE, YOU WERE INVITED BY DONATELLA VERSACE TO ATTEND THE VERSACE SPRING/ SUMMER ’ 19 SHOW. CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE EXPERIENCE?
We were first approached by the Versace crew, who requested the use of our music for their show. Then they asked us to attend the show as celebrity guests. We accepted the offer, of course, and were flown to Milan, Italy, where we met Donatella. She invited us into Gianni Versace’s house, where we sipped champagne while she shared the history of Versace and told us how much she loves our work. It was a gag.
WHAT ARE YOUR STYLE RULES?
We go through different phases when we’re inspired by different things and incorporate that into our wardrobes. So we don’t necessarily have specific style rules. Just wear whatever you feel like wearing, but keep it cute.
WHERE DO YOU DRAW INSPIRATION FROM?
From everything around us. Blackness, queerness and spiritually are the base of what our work is rooted in.
IN FASHION, MUSIC, ART AND DESIGN, WHO IS ON YOUR RADAR RIGHT NOW?
LYZZA, Kopano, Christoph Rumpf, Tiger Maremela and Dada Khanyisa.
WHAT’S THE MOST OUTOF- BODY EXPERIENCE YOU’VE HAD ON STAGE?
Every performance we do feels like an out-of-body experience.