The South African designer Thebe Magugu, who went on to collaborate with Marea on looks for photo shoots, heralded Marea’s merging of “his heritage, culture and spiritual journey together with his queerness,” in an email. “Seeing people interrogate themselves so freely reminds us to do the same,” he added.
Marea said Faka was powerful, but only the beginning. “We had a responsibility to serve our people, to serve Black, young, queer Africans, by putting ourselves out there, being visible, and saying all that we needed to say with the conviction that we said it with,” he explained. “But there was something propelling me to answer this call, to give the world this music.”
He started having vivid dreams; in one of the most striking, he saw visions of himself as a sangoma. A powerful figure with roots in the Xhosa and Zulu traditions, sangomas have fulfilled a variety of roles over time, including spirit mediums and practitioners of traditional medicine.
“Music was my first teacher of matters of the spirit and how to receive messages, but in 2020 I was told it goes beyond being a musician,” Marea said. He noted that had been “feeling strange” for perhaps 10 years. “I knew there was something I needed to get, a level of actualization that only comes with undergoing initiation.”
Marea spent seven months training to become a sangoma, and while stereotypes of hyper-masculinity can pervade traditional spaces, he found quite the opposite. “I trained with a lot of other queer sangomas — almost as if queerness was a spiritual condition,” he said with a warm laugh. “From what I understand, it’s a very known thing, but even our ancestors support it. I don’t have homophobic ancestors.”