29 Jun Young South Africa: FAKA | Redefining Representations of Black Queer Identity
FAKA is a cultural movement established by best friends Thato Ramaisa (Fela Gucci) and Buyani Duma (Desire Marea). The besties began as a performance art duo, exploring alternative expressions of black queer identity in a characteristic lo-fi, glitchy aesthetic. Through this the pair realised the need for others to express their stories and experiences, and so expanded FAKA into an online platform that voices and promotes young black queer voices in current South Africa’s sociopolitical sphere.
Who and what is FAKA?
Faka began as an art duo between Fela Gucci and Desire Marea and we just wanted to make art. It’s partially an archival project documenting young black queer creatives who we think, from our experience, do not relish in the exposure and recognition they deserve for being visible as who they believe themselves to be during these times. We use performance as a medium to manifest the realities that we desire for the black queer South African.
Can you tell us about the key themes and ideas that you explore together?
It’s an exploration of godliness. Godliness being an empathetic, allegorical existence. We have put an emphasis on sexual fluidity and othered masculine identities because we feel that the way we were forced to interact with those concepts taught us a lot about how to interact with other aspects of our identity and the expansion has never stopped.
Do you think young people are more or less empowered to shape and express their own identities right now? Please explain.
Yes. Its been going on for ages. Boom Shaka. Bongo Maffin. They existed like that in their times and they were celebrated for the integrity with which they expressed their identity and desires. It’s really just a continuation of that, and maybe the reason why it seems more visible is because of the Internet and Model-C aesthetics.
What role do you think art has, or should have, in society today?
It should be about humanising oneself. When I wake up every morning, with a sore anus and a hard penis, I take a selfie next to my James Baldwin book against a backdrop of white sheets. And that is who I present to you at that time. That’s an artistic representation of who I want to exist as at that time and the humanising power of creation in those moments is something we should be pursuing through art. I can be Somizi Mhlongo and exist in an art gallery. Art should be about making every kind of expression and representation valid.
Please tell us briefly about your individual aliases, Fela Gucci and Desire Marea, and what these personas represent.
Fela Gucci is the story of the South African gay black boy who chooses to exist as he believes. Desire Marea is a wonderful nasty thing that we have to pay honest attention to for the sake of our evolution.
Why performance? What appeals to you both about the act and space of performance?
Performance forces you to look and with what we are trying to communicate as FAKA, we are forcing confrontation. Look at these complexities and know that they exist.
Please tell us about your recent performance piece, Wait Lorraine, and give us a “Wemmer Pan Africanism introduction to Siyakaka Feminism”.
We all know that girl. We grew up being terrorised by the thick-as-a-slice-of-bread layer of Rama that her polony sandwiches instilled while we reassembled the overturned remnants of our grated polony sandwiches before her gaze, head bowed in shame hoping she didn’t notice. She represents somewhat of an oppressive aspiration that can only be pursued through the suspension of self. She is an imaginary policing construct and she needs to wait as we use the undesirable debris of polony and breadcrumbs to re-imagine the many different ways our sandwich can exist. WaitLorraine Siyakaka.
Why do you think identity and gender politics are such a hot topic in international art, fashion and media right now?
It’s a mystery why it is such a hot topic right now because sexual identity has existed with the same diversity for ages. It’s being regarded with a laughable sense of newness now, because perhaps, without the Internet it would be difficult for one to expose oneself to the many different identities. The Internet has given us the humanising virtue of representing ourselves in the way we see ourselves.
Are young queer voices being heard in South Africa?
There is definitely a lack of visibility and the right representation in terms of how we are often presented in popular media; if it’s not some shit sitcom on SABC1 presenting a caricature of a garish township gay, it’s Model-C misogynoir VUZU promoting conflict between Vintage Cru and Bujy. Our stories are never allowed the platform to be expressed by us, which has been an inspiration behind us opening a Facebook page and Tumblr where we profile young black queer artists to tell their stories.
How have the Internet and social media and publishing platforms like Tumblr affected the way young people communicate, shape and express their identities and thoughts?
Social media and Tumblr have allowed for a global exchange that is very empowering for young people. It means that a kid from Alexandra and one from Sandton can coexist in the same realm which on a socio-political scale could mean something progressive for South Africa and on a personal level it could mean that “I choose to exist as I believe”. That is the power we believe the Internet has given to young people in this country.
What would you say characterises ‘young South Africa’ now?
StruggleciaPlease. Can you let me define growth for myself.
Who are the young creative South Africans on your radar and why?
Vusi Makatsi, Jabu Mic Jay Vilakazi, Andre Moraloki. They represent what it means to be black and queer in South Africa right now.
Where do you each see yourself in the next five to ten years?
Thato Ramaisa: I am currently enrolled as a photography student at Market Photo Workshop and hope to create a strong archival work of young black queer people and growing FAKA to an LGBTI organisation/support system.
Buyani Duma: In 5 years there will be bigger things to come.