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.

Glamour (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - Words by ASANDA SIZANI

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.

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