Desire Marea, best known as one half of South African performance art duo FAKA, has released a debut album. Nickita Maesela speaks to Marea about going solo and the inspiration behind the creative expression.
The artist’s latest musical offering – Desire – consists of nine tracks and a music video for the lead single, You Think I’m Horny, which was released late last year.
The Joburg-based artist opens up a portal to a South African queer utopia, exploring the sounds of unapologetic freedom that sets a powerful precedent for the new decade.
While the world continues to inflict violence on people who identify as part of the LGBTIQ community, a mecca that allows for space and time of healing and learning is being curated and contributed to by black queer artists such as Marea.
The imagining and coming to life of this queer utopia, where you can be yourself freely, continues to drive an artistic and proud revolution in the world.
The project was previously described by UK music magazine Fact as “an intricate inquiry into various themes including loss, displacement and the terrifying manifestations of love in the contemporary world”.
Marea is currently getting ready to perform their debut album in Geneva, Switzerland, at the end of the month, with local shows to be announced soon.
Your album is both haunting and empowering. What would you say pushed you towards creating this solo project and how has that journey been?
I think the clarity that often came through loss and trauma compelled me to make this work. After experiencing patterns where I was constantly dispossessed, I became aware of myself and my gift to make music because those would be the things that would stick around, demanding attention and acceptance.
The more I lost, the more legible the signs, and I eventually gave in to the process after being very guided. Everything, from the songs to the collaborators, came in the most beautiful ways. I didn’t have to search. The entire conception of it was literally in the hands of the gods.
In this album I explore the realisation that the entire experience of being queer in this world may be something to heal from. My experience as a black queer South African was the void I spoke from.
How has the video for You Think I’m Horny been received and what would you say were your favourite moments in making that project?
It was received very well, I think. The collaboration process was my favourite. Jamal Nxedlana is a brilliant storyteller and the entire team had amazing energy.
I would love to make a video for every song because each of them is a key frame in this vast narrative. Tavern Kween, a track on the album, is definitely prioritised and how soon I deliver depends on funding at this point.
In your art and artistry there’s a strong sense of ancestral homage being paid, and also celebration of that connection, especially in your vocals across this album. What does creating music from this space mean for you?
Music is where my ancestors and I commune; it’s the language I believe we both understand and which connects our dimensions.
I don’t claim to have any kind of superior gift to anyone else, but I definitely credit them for growing and healing me spiritually through the music they bless me with in moments of alignment and in dreams too.
It’s a special relationship and I want to honour them as much as I can in my process because I believe pop culture has for a very long time denied black artists the space to own that truth.
What are your views on the freedom of artistic expression in the South African music scene?
Artists are free but society and media can be unnecessarily conservative, and in the end that can affect how we express that freedom.
But I don’t allow anything to limit me.
“[I was] born and raised in Amandawe in the southern coast of KwaZulu-Natal. The people I grew up around have come to respect and celebrate the work I do, and that’s the best kind of affirmation.
The album is available on Apple Music, Spotify and SoundCloud.
. This series on LGBTIQ life in Africa is made possible through a partnership with The Other Foundation. To learn more about its work, visit theotherfoundation.org