A talk with Jane Penny, TOPS’s vocalist, at her home back in Montreal
FAKA, a cultural movement established by Buyani Duma and Thato Ramaisa, aims to infiltrate the spaces that exclude them through the expression and liberation of queer bodies as Desire Marea and Fela Gucci. Thus appropriately named after Zulu word faka, pronounced as faga, which means to penetrate or to break into. Although often labelled as a performance art duo they want to represent more and offer a platform or even create an agency to showcase queer black artists to the world; #Siyakaka.
Pictures by Nick Widmer for Cakeboy
Words by Hannes Rooms
It gives me hope that these are people actively challenging the narratives of queer identity and receiving international attention for their art
Buyani and Thato connected in 2010 in Johannesburg. At the time, Marea was studying fashion and Gucci photography. They formed FAKA soon after, but only debuted in 2015 with ‘#Wait Lorraine: A Wemmer Pan-African Introduction to Siyakaka Feminism’. The following year was defined by the duo’s release of the Bottoms Revenge EP. No surprise it was signed on NON, the label founded by Chino Amobi, Nkisi and South-African Angel-Ho which features exclusively artists from Africa and the African Diaspora. NON’s music is mainly a tool to expose social exclusion and the consequences of colonisation today and in the past. An ambient FAKA track was included on NON’s first compilation and if only Fela and Desire’s visas weren’t revoked last-minute, they would have played NON label nights in London and Berlin’s Berghain.
Musically FAKA employs an ancestral or gospel version of gqom, the tribal-meets-urban genre which originates from Durban. Gqom thrives on a boundary between conceptual and body music and is part of the cultural resistance, connected to the troubled history of South Africa and township life. Music as a vehicle of protest, characterised by non-4/4 African rhythms, deep dark bass kicks and martial drums, irresistible to not bump to. The DIY, street sound was pioneered by Rudeboyz, Mafia boys, TLC FAM and globally exported by record label GQOM Oh!. Generally gqom parties are open, but not exclusive to, sexually-fluid communities, and also known for the use of qoh, a local molly variant that makes people feel confident and makes them dance unconstrained. Hear Fela and Desire interview each other about gqom, qoh and more on Radio Cómeme.
FAKA employs an ancestral or gospel version of gqom, the tribal-meets-urban genre which originates from Durban
But FAKA only uses gqom to express their ideas in a familiar sound for locals to grab their attention. Through a combination of mediums ranging from sound, performance, video and photography, FAKA creates an eclectic aesthetic around themes central to their experience as black queer bodies navigating the cis-hetero-topia of post-colonial Africa. But don’t confuse performance art with gimmick, for example when Fela and Desire dress up as twin sisters; their queerness is honest and choreographed only for artistic reasons. The reception of their art hasn’t always been positive, with people often walking out of their shows. ‘The online experience is different because there is a sense of community online with people who follow each other and stuff. As opposed to physical spaces, not everyone is familiar with the work so not everyone has been following what you have been doing, so I guess it can come as a shock to some people,’ said Fela.
Recently Mykki Blanco visited Jo’burg for Vice and met up with FAKA to talk about what it is to be queer, trans, non-conforming and black in South-Africa. To quote Blanco ‘It gives me hope that these are the people actively challenging the narratives of the queer identity and receiving international attention for their art. These creatives refuse being colonised by the Western gaze.’ Ironically FAKA’s international appeal is rooted in the duo’s unapologetic representation of black queer culture, one that embraces the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and spirituality.
FAKA plays In De Ruimte, 8 November. The show is free for members and their +1. Join here.