30 Inspirational Drum Women | Faye Kabali-Kagwa on the importance of cultural curation


I am Fay. Ideas doula, cultural curator, producer, writer and aspiring cartoon character.

This is how Faye Kabali-Kagwa’s website introduces her to the world.

She admits it’s hard to explain to people exactly what she does for a living. Issa Dee, the character played by Issa Rae on HBO’s award-winning series Insecure, is probably the best example of what Faye is.

She is part of the M&G Top 200 Young South African, a member of the VANSA Cultural Leadership Program 2021, the Pan African Creative Exchange (PACE) Dramaturgy Lab 2021 and the Salzburg Global Seminar Cultural Innovators Forum 2019. But her real superpower is to “read the pulse”. “. of the cultural zeitgeist”.

“Reading the cultural zeitgeist is just a fancy way of saying that I have a soft spot for understanding where people are at culturally. A great example of that is how, in 2020, I produced a play on WhatsApp.

“A lot of people in theater were heading to streaming or film work. Meanwhile, people were circulating information every day via WhatsApp. WhatsApp was the catch in terms of relevant information, misinformation and voice notes hilarious. It seemed like a more cost-effective and accessible vehicle for telling stories while still being able to use traditional theatrical conventions such as live actors and a script.”

The work of the cultural curator is important for several reasons, one of the main ones being testimony.

“Lately I’ve been thinking that one of the key aspects of why I’m called to do what I do is to witness. It is the observation of multiple aspects of cultural life that allows me to create links between different audiences, ideas, mediums and places, ”says the 30-year-old Capetonian to Drum.

“It’s good to have someone on your team who is on the periphery and potentially straddling different worlds. It allows for a more dynamic point of view and projects and programs that go beyond what is judged possible.”

“I really want my world to be able to exist and stand up for itself outside of me and the team. I believe the culture is owned and made by people. If others feel compelled to talk about the work I do and to voluntarily share it with others, so I did my job.

Although she associates what she does with an exact thing, Faye has a job that speaks for itself and is a testament to her creativity.

“Six Degrees From Home was my first public articulation of the kind of work I wanted to do. As a project, the goal was to use art to facilitate conversations about identity, migration and displacement in the East African Diaspora.

“The first iteration was a young women’s tea held for East African women in Cape Town, at this event women were asked to bring an item or item of clothing that reminded them of their home. portraits were taken with these objects and this was later developed into a series called What Home Gave Me.

“On Instagram, we were able to extend the conversation. We asked East African women from all over the world to send us photos of their bedrooms as well as a photo of themselves. We would feature the women on our page indicating where they were from and where they currently live. The artistic part of the whole experience was portraits, but the central element of the project was the building of a community.

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“The Shopping Dead was a game-changer,” adds Faye. “It has created many opportunities for me to share my work with creatives around the world. It’s something that people still talk to me about and that to me is special.

Her parents, creative people in their own right, have helped nurture Faye’s love of the arts for as long as she can remember.

“I was born in Oshakati, Namibia, but I’ve been in Cape Town since I was a year old. My parents are both from Uganda. We got permanent citizenship when I was at the end of l ‘primary school.

“I think my parents always had a kind of insider-outsider quality in their lives. My mother was always a storyteller and always looked for places to sing.

“I grew up singing in choirs, playing in orchestras and accompanying my mother to different cultural events in the city. We lived in the northern suburbs which people don’t really think of when they think of Cape Town, but that’s where my understanding of Cape Town comes from. It’s funny because I now live and work mostly in the South and the CBD.

“Theatre is something that I encountered quite late in my life.

“If we’re talking about the physical building, then my first experience was probably a concert at the Baxter Theater or Artscape Theater when it was still called the Nico Malan.

“As for my first professional production, I remember seeing Jazz Art and Magnet Theater doing Cargo.

“I remember watching a play about Idi Amin in an outdoor amphitheater in Stellenbosch with my parents. They didn’t think the representation was accurate. They laughed, though!

Talking about her passion for theater and how the work she does at ASSITEJ (a network of organizations involved in theatre) intersects with that passion, Faye recalls one of the biggest festivals she attended helped bring it to life, pre-Covid.

“In 2017, ASSITEJ South Africa hosted the Cradle of Creativity, a huge international children’s theater festival, conference and festival. The festival took place over 11 days, had three main venues in Cape Town and had over 60 local and international theatrical productions specially designed for children and young people This included theatrical work for children under the age of one.

“My job was to manage bookings and sponsorships for schools, nurseries and youth groups. It was the first time a festival of this magnitude with children’s theater was held on the continent.”

That’s why Issa Rae’s character passion resonates so deeply with Faye.

“In season 4 of ‘Insecure’, Issa finally finds the courage to quit her job and bet on herself. The result is a block party, her love letter to Inglewood. The party is a celebration of the how creativity manifests in her hometown, visible through local fashion, business, music and art.All done in a way that centers the sensibilities of the local population.

“There’s a nice moment in the season when Issa is with her mom and they settle on the description of cultural coordinator for the job she does.

“Coincidentally, I was watching the episode with my mom who turned to me and said, ‘That’s you.'”

“Issa Dee’s life is like mine – minus the gorgeous men!”

“So when I’m asked to create projects, I’m always sensitive to who I want to speak to and what their relationship might be with different cultural mediums. My job is to keep this perspective and use it to guide my collaborators in the projects we create – whether they are events, programs, productions or unique pieces. »

The Capetonian has loved theater and literature for as long as she can remember.

And Faye is a bit of an Issa in her day job in the southern suburbs and Cape Town CBD.

“In most of the projects I do, I end up with someone who has less experience than me but who is infinitely more talented.

“I think that a natural transfer of skills and expertise develops within these spaces. I work for ASSITEJ South Africa and our offices are based in a community center in Capricorn, just outside Muizenberg. The younger people there see me as a sort of mentor.

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“I’ve worked with a few of them on work projects and developed relationships. They came to see me for advice and support in starting their own projects, or for information on theatre.

When asked how her plans to become a cartoon character are going, she jokes, “Bad.

“I haven’t been able to commit to just one look, nor do I have a tagline.”

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