Interview: Elena Savlokhova


Desire Marea is a KwaZulu-Natal born multi-disciplinary artist.


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Listen to the self-titled album - here.

What’s it like to be you?
It is like being many people and being nobody at once. Like being nobody by the fact that you’re too many people.

The colonial way of contextualising the lived experience is very much rooted in being or having only one self, something that’s reinforced in the linguistic fabric of the world, and I think that is very delimiting.

It breeds cognitive dissonance when trying to make sense of the self as many people, many entities, all manifesting through one vessel at different times and different ways.

When did you first experience the power music and art carry within themselves?
When I first realised that it was a living energy that traveled through generations, defying dimensions as it moved from my forefathers to me, manifesting in my physical environment for me to perceive and receive guidance. As soon as I had evolved enough to perceive that, I was immediately able to hear music.

What is the enemy of creativity and how do you defeat it?
Capitalism just always finds a way of ruining things. And I’m not defeating it with stress.

You’ve said that, ‘Great art challenges the imagination to the point of destruction so that it can be healed’. What examples of great art were pivotal in healing your imaginations at times of seeking the greatness of the self?
Simphiwe Dana’s ‘Kulture Noir, Alexander McQueen’s ‘Plato’s Atlantis, Julius Eastman’s ‘Unjust Malaise, Hugh Masekela’s ‘Stimela‘, Milisuthando Bongela and Jamal Nxedlana’s cultural work, Zanele Muholi and Sabelo Mlangeni’s photography. Tabita Rezaire, Bogosi Sekhukhuni, Nolan Dennis, Hlasko, SUN, Nonku Phiri, Klein, Chino Amobi, Angel-Ho, Telfar, Shane Oliver, Mowalola, Grace Jones, Meredith Monk, Kate Bush, The Nguni people and the greater BaNtu ancestors, IB Kamara, Gabrielle Goliath, Fela Gucci.

What are your personal definitions of beauty and does the perception of what is beautiful differ for you over time?
Being is beautiful.

What questions do you dislike giving answers to?
Just any question that’s designed to bait struggle porn out of me. Too many times, when making work with an overtly political purpose and from a place of “struggle”, many journalistic engagements tend to focus on confirming that struggle. Like, “I hear things are bad for black queer people in Africa, is this true?” and it’s like… Yeah, things are bad. Queer and trans people get killed. Homosexuality is punished by law in the majority of African countries. It’s very bad. I am already making work about my experience on my terms. I don’t need to be invited to relive and reaffirm that trauma in an interview if the purpose is not to actively help. Then it’s just struggle porn. I acknowledge that the platform alone can be argued as a great way to create awareness about issues we face, but if that’s the tea then just write a story about that and invite me to comment if need be. Don’t invite me to speak about my work and just slide my trauma in there for dramatic value, it compromises my sense agency.

Why do you think people hate what is not them and what is the way of ridding someone of resentment?
I honestly don’t know. But it makes me wonder if I can I really separate myself from anything that exists in the same dimension as me. I may not be aligned with it, or identify with it using my subjective moral compass, but it sure does exist in the same way and of the same thing as me.


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Is it difficult for you to challenge yourselves even further with every new project?
It’s mostly about staying true and allowing that to be the thing that opens me up to greatness.

Finding my truth takes time and months of living. It takes courage, endless enquiry, hurt and active healing. I have to journey into the darkness and just have faith that I will come out okay, carrying the truth that is authentically true for me.

That is the essence of my work. Once I’ve figured that out and opened all my receptors, the work usually just flows through me.

If falling in love would be something you can see what would it look like?
Dawn.

What new truths have you uncovered about yourselves through your solo album released earlier this year?
That I am incurably complex.

What truth have you learned after all these years you’ve lived?
God is real.

What topics or things fascinate you right now?
A bush in a village where queer people go to fuck.

What are your favorite mythical creatureі and why? Would you want them to exist in the real world?
I like mermaids. I find it fascinating that the water is its own dimension. And yes, they do exist in the real world.

Do you sometimes misjudge things or people? Is it easy for you to accept mistakes when you make them?
I don’t like making mistakes but I make them. I am learning to be better at accepting that. And my judgment is always going to be subject to my very subjective human condition, so it is not perfect. I’m okay with that.

What question would you like to be asked in an interview and what would your answers be?
‘What’s your favourite thing your mother has ever said to you?’ Answer: “Ngiyakubona”. 


Photo courtesy of Desire Marea