By now, local creative duo FAKA almost requires no introduction. Comprising Desire Marea and Fela Gucci, this fascinating pair is probably best known for their music, but they also delve into video, photography and literature; with themes challenging the status quo and traditional ideals of masculinity and femininity. They’ve appeared in art shows and biennales around the world, and their latest creative victory was being chosen for the official runway music for Versace’s men’s show in Milan.

Their next appearance will be at the ICA Live Art Festival 2018 in Cape Town in September. I visited them at their apartment in the Maboneng Precinct to chat about what they will be doing there.

I’m greeted at the door by Desire, clad all in black with a lacy bustier above his shirt – a little reminiscent of Prince during his Planet Earth era. Fela is dressed in a grey suit and matching durag. He has an air of mystery about him, in stark contrast to Desire’s exuberance. They are going out later, and I’m offered whisky and ginger ale and a slice of moist chocolate cake. We soon begin to jokingly chew over how Donatella Versace smells and if she's in good shape.

Brushing shoulders with the likes of the international Versace has not diminished their love for Cape Town though.

The pair tell me they have a warm affection for the city, and this particular instance is more unique as they will be presenting two different works – a live music performance on September 1 and an installation performance of The Factory on September 2. 

This will not be the first time that The Factory – a restaging of a scene in a Joburg men-only sex club – will be unveiled to the public and, having not seen it, I’m keen to grasp the artists’ perspective.

“The first thing that made us want to do The Factory in a gallery space is because The Factory is a queer space that echoes the notions of a safe space, but also a complicated space … Just like the concept of safety in life,” says Desire.

You see, The Factory is a testimonial to male-only nude bars, in particular reference to an establishment in New Doornfontein, with a complicated and controversial background.

I bring up the question of whether or not they see themselves as activist. “Wow, no pressure, eh?” Desire exclaims. "We're not activists, we're future activists ... It's not in our practice to do things that reflect activism." Fela clears his throat before adding his sentiments: “We explore our truth, and I guess some people could regard that as activism."

FAKA tell me about their plans for the future and the album that they’re working on. “Our music comes from everywhere, the stuff that we hear, the stuff that we like and what we grew up hearing. We express ourselves in ways that are true to our experiences."

The subject of how the black queer community has claimed FAKA following the success of their European tour comes up, to which Desire responds: “A lot of communities feel like that because even the community where I grew up in rural KwaZulu-Natal is claiming me, even though it wasn’t an easy space to grow up in. Everyone is allowed to claim us because it goes to show just how interconnected our identity is."

Alongside FAKA, the ICA Live Art Festival will feature some of South Africa and the world. Started in 2012, it's a completely free event and is known for its edgy, non-commercial and slightly aggressive works. In an era when art festivals have become increasingly corporatised (the upcoming FNB Joburg Art Fair comes to mind), Live Art has become all the more important.

Audiences can expect 43 productions that range from installations to performances and happenings dealing with heritage and intimacy; ecology and biography; activism and love; desire and spirituality.

Its aim is to bring local and international art to public spaces so that ordinary citizens can experience it, challenging them with themes and subjects including femicide, mixed heritage controversy and black queer experiences.

It’s curated by a selection committee comprised of Professor Jay Pather, Nomusa Makhubu, Nkule Mabaso, James MacDonald and Bongani Kona.

“We’re trying to promote collaboration and work in collectives and ultimately try to keep a balance between established international artists as well as young, emerging artists, allowing all to exist side by side,” says Pather.

  • Live Art takes place from September 1 to 16 at the University of Cape Town’s Little Theatre Complex, Iziko National Galleries, and in various spaces in the city centre. For more info, go to ica.uct.ac.za

What to see at Live Art - September 1 to 8

ICA Live Art Festival curator, Professor Jay Pather, takes us through the first eight days of the festival. Below is his guide through the venues, emotions and experiences on offer:

The Festival opens with a quiet meditation on loss and heritage, a prayer with and through Sethembile Msezane's installation performance called Signal her Return lll.

Keeping the theme of trajectories and going back and forth in time, are works by veteran performance artists Robyn Orlin and Albert Khoza, the explosive FAKA and the next afternoon Pumflet's (Ilze Wolf and Kemang wa Lehulere) presentation at Luxurama Cinema reminding us of a space of creativity and protest during the seventies.

We then delve in to biographies and intimacy with Toni Stuart and Ella Mesma's mixed media work using aerial dance and poetry, and other installations that talk to migration, urban living and intimacy. 

Ella Mesma Company | Papyllon Trailer with poetry from Ella Mesma on Vimeo.

Plunging us further into the urban and activism Greer Valley takes us through art works that arose as a result of the Fees must Fall movement which then spills out into performances in and outside of the Cape Town Library and a stirring work by Qandiswa James outside the Cape Town Station.

The next day veteran performance artist John Nankin invites us into his quiet space on a farm in Tamboerskloof for his exquisite new work The Young Pioneers.

Continuing these notions of rich trajectories and heritage of live art in our country are works by Wezile Mgibe, Siwa Mgoboza and Nobhuko Nqaba in an evocative partnership, and the visual artist Sikhumbuzo Makandula and the highly respected musician, Mthwakazi at the Iziko South African National Gallery. 

Combining both biography as well as trajectories of heritage, Athi Patra Ruga gloriously leads us in to the Planetarium and beyond onto the streets of Cape Town at night where you can expect everything from performances that emerge from statues and the Slave Lodge to projections on helium filled balloons.

Fresh from a tour at the Ruhrtriennale in Germany, Mamela Nyamza brings her much anticipated Black Privilege. On the same day Lorin Sookool explores intimacy and technology working with cellphones and performance.

Speaking to ideas of activism, Bernard Akoi-Jackson from Ghana and Makhumula from Malawi explore bureaucracy and sex workers rights in provocative installations that are immersive and compelling as they are socially highly relevant to this time in our country.

On the final day of the second week, be further intrigued by works that feature a punching bag and a hacksaw (the fiercely inventive Sello Pesa), musings on a black Samurai (Naledi Majola) and the exquisite physical language and theatrical mastery of Nomcebisi Moyikwa.