TAKUDZWA HILLARY CHIWANZA & NATHANIEL GONDO
For people who genuinely believe in the transformative power of fashion, music, and art as the immense avenue towards collective liberation and a heightened sense of positive, unparalleled individuality, the truism of the Skeyi and Strobo Fabrik Party as the coolest arts revolution in the country is not misplaced. These people, in another world, may be referred to as FABRIKANS. And what unfolds when Fabrikans convene to celebrate eccentric and organic artistry is what this piece will delve into.
The highly anticipated 8th edition of the Skeyi and Strobo Fabrik Party (SSFP), aptly titled the ‘Fabrikans Convention’ – which was hosted at Alliance Française de Harare on October 27-29, 2023 – lived up to its billing, serving as a platform for Zimbabwe’s super-brilliant creatives to illuminate their glory to the world and beyond.
The 2023 Fabrikans Convention was resplendent event radiating priceless experiences that remain eternally cherished by all who attended—the Fabrikans. The team behind the Fabrikans Convention vindicated themselves, as they have always done throughout the past editions—that their event is the emancipatory and solidaristic inspiration smashing barricades that often strangulate the expression of awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping creativity.
The overwhelming success of this year’s edition showed, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Zimbabwe is exceedingly blessed with revolutionary artistic talents. The 8th edition of the Skeyi and Strobo Fabrik Party – a haven for fashion enthusiasts, art aficionados, and music lovers – was nothing short of a spectacle to behold, as the organizers pulled off a flawless event that will undoubtedly go down as one of the most excellent ever hosted.
This three-day event featured much-needed workshops addressing an array of various issues relevant to Zimbabwe’s creative industry; a full day of eclectic, soul-lifting, and hard-hitting music with some five-star rated performances; and avant-garde fashion runways showcasing collections adorned with a flair of the unorthodox from a record number of nascent and rising brands that include YET, Rose Bowl, Mucheno Afro, Rogue, Juvenile Glide, J Sabelo, Radical, Rogue among many others.
SSFP, renowned as a space for the unfettered expression of art, music, and fashion, was all about the avant-garde, as witnessed by those in attendance. It showed us that it is fiercely and unwavering committed to being a creative space that portends the cultural renaissance that Zimbabwe, Africa and the world sorely need. And to this end, we compiled a few set points to explain clearly what transpired at this 8th edition of SSFP.
The designers’ perspective – Bringing the abstract to life
It is not a figment of the imagination to assert that life would be unbearably disconsolate without the valuable input of fashion designers. The designers at this year’s Fabrik Party went all out to solidly prove that Zimbabwe has immense and unhindered talent that transcends certain societal confines; and that certain audiences are simply sleeping on them. Their lively, ebullient, and carefully-crafted designs fearlessly exhibited the Zimbabwean way of life from contextual youthful perspectives—exuberantly embracing each other’s flaws; and unapologetically preaching to the world that fashion should not be conflated with banality.
It is organic, spirited, empowering, cathartic, and, most importantly, it can be a viable source of livelihoods. The message was: Fashion is a way to express our individualized and collective emotional experiences in their multifaceted complexities, but in a way that exudes boldness, style, and a progressive consciousness. Some people speak or express their emotions through fashion, and as such we need to embrace them the way they are.
A designer from South Africa, Thandolwethu Mbatha, said that he was captivated by the level of talent reigning supreme among Zimbabwean designers. This shows that the designers’ perspective is galactic, and that they are growing at an exponential, admirable scale.
The models’ perspective – A case of “show and tell”
When designers conceptualize lofty ideas and bring them to fruition, it ultimately comes down to the models to breathe life into the designers’ concepts; showcasing them in photoshoots and on runways in their full glory. The inextricable relationship between the designer and the model is what makes fashion and its attendant strands of urban street culture an alluring and worthwhile exercise it is. And this is what we witnessed at the Fabrikans Convention.
The models understood their role in the creative ecosystem and delivered their assigned assignments spectacularly. They walked with their heads held high, showing no remorse, and proving how authentic art ought to be. Although some of them are still in their early phases career-wise, they still delivered wonderful displays beyond the levels of up-and-coming. For some, it is abundantly clear that the sky is the limit if they are to pursue modeling on a full-time basis.
The glorious music performances
This is an avowed fact: Fabrik Party is a haven of super-brilliant music performances. It is a space that plugs you with the some of the coolest music Zimbabwe has on offer. The lively performances bring an electric atmosphere inclined towards celestial levels.
DJ sets by Tapiwa, DJ Rori, and Bam Bam Madame stand out as momentous points of reference worth reliving. This also goes for Asante Mo, a dance group from Bulawayo, whose conflation of live drums, Afro House/Tech, and dance need to be talked about more.
Performances by Uchiha Clan, Griffin Makwiramiti, Mutsa, Josh “JTG” Palmer, Israel and Absol showed that Fabrik Party exists to shine light on amazingly gifted artists who are often overlooked by conventional platforms. Chengeto Brown’s performance was queenly and majestic, as her voice radiated understated elegance.
The Castrol Ignite and Flow Set, graced by Thee Ammartian, Banshee, Yadis and Millz Million, showed how the conflation of spoken word artistry and rap flows is what we all need to experience unforgettable spectacles of masterful lyrical prowess.
Acid Tears blessed the audience with Zimbabwean strands of heavy metal rock, a performance whose frenetic energy was amped by the performance of Mbira punk rock group Chikwata263, whose confident, solid, and mature sound showed that the rock scene in Zimbabwe is worth further exploring.
The growth of Fabrik Party over the years – A massive victory for the creative industry
Moving from a one-day event to one spread over three days was obviously not an easy feat; and it is an attestation to how the SSFP has incredibly grown larger in order to accommodate the large pool of budding and established creatives in Zimbabwe and their attendant audiences and other stakeholders. Previously, Fabrik Party – clearly a celebratory party about fabrics and everything in between – bordered on niche audiences.
But this year was a tad different: the statement was one of an unshakeable and resolute intent to grow larger and incorporate many other stakeholders in making Zimbabwe’s creative industry a viable one. This included bringing new stakeholders into the fray.
And we saw this through partnerships with Pacific Storm, the British Council Creative Economy, and Castrol HP Lubes, which was a lucid indicator of how the collaboration between creatives and corporates has room to grow larger. It was a good sight to see corporates partnering with SSFP to push new frontiers of the visibility of creatives and their endeavours.
Introducing competitions like Designers’ Marathon – sponsored by the Pacific Cigarette Company – indicates how the space is growing as the presence of corporates conveyed a commitment to uplift talent and nurture dreams.
The high number of attendees (some who said it was their first time to attend the Fabrik Party) lends credence to the steady, organic growth of SSFP. It was an encouraging sign: that in more years to come, SSFP is definitely going to be global powerhouse in showcasing the coolest fashion and art ever seen.
A first-time attendant told Mcheno&More that she was surprised but also enthused to learn that there is a space in Zimbabwe that is full of fashion, art, and music, all in one place where people are spared from the rubrics of societal judgment. And this is the touchstone of Fabrik Party events—to bring together homegrown artistic talent in a safe space devoid of judgments; thus becoming a counter-hegemonic celebration and promotion of art that portends critically needed counter-narratives.
Who are we creating the art for?
Art is being created for anyone who has the proverbial third eye; people who appreciate fashion, art and music for both cathartic and liberatory existential purposes. These are the people whom the Fabrik Party endeavours to continue serving as they can freely express themselves without any fear of judgement.
A space for radical, unfiltered, raw creativity
The space continues to grow bigger as more people start to attend the space as the radicals get to be appreciated and being shown love. The SSFP allows the talent to be in full force as it is not filtered as the creatives display and showcase their raw talent. With the SSFP growing bigger, we are in a treat to witness more radical, unfiltered, raw art on display that evokes the emotions as creatives freely express themselves.
What this portends for Zimbabwean fashion, music and art
With each successful edition, Zimbabwe’s fashion space continues to grow as more brands are increasingly coming to the fore, with undeniable visibility. This is evidenced by the fair number of brands that participated in the runway, as well as those selling their merchandise on allocated stands that are given a space to showcase and do their business.
Fabrik Party remains a safe haven for exquisitely magnificent art. @lennoxthephotographer
This has made the fashion industry show promising signs of booming as people are showing love to the designers as they start to rock local brands. It is however imperative to note that there is still a long way to go if more success is to become a reality. Even for visual art, we know there is vast potential that will surface brightly, a case in point being artist Ushe Brown who showcased his unique and unconventional pieces of art.
Fabrik Party: Issues of potential and inclusivity
Although the convention was a success, one could still point towards the issue of inclusivity, given the placement of the event and entry fees which to some – who have the fervor to participate at such events – may be steep.
There are still potential audiences which can give more flavour to the rich tapestry of unhinged creativity that is synonymous with SSFP to be included. But in all this, sustainability is a crucial, indispensable element towards the success of arts events.
Generally, SSFP has always been a good space for societal inclusion as people from all walks of life and across different social fault lines are welcome and treated without any judgement.
The Fabrik Party has the potential to grow bigger than ever and become one the most important events on our calendars if the organisers keep the same energy and their feet on the ground, which we are certain they will do. Moving from a single to three-day event creates more room for the organising team to deliver a marvellous fiesta of fashion, music, and art. One can only wonder what future editions will turn out to be.
Conclusion – A space for alternative art to flourish and thrive
This is the only definite place that the creatives can flourish and thrive because once the Fabrikans are in liaison with the brand then infinite possibilities abound and proliferate. The space was created for the creatives to flourish and thrive as artists, designers freely express themselves to the best of their capabilities.
So, if you are a creator, designer or visual artist tired of being looked upon because of what you believe in or being exploited because of being freely expressive then you definitely need to attend the next edition of Fabrik Party for you to flourish and thrive.
This well-prepared and properly-curated 8th edition of the Skeyi and Strobo Fabrik Party was such an incredible success so much that we cannot wait for another edition to be hosted. By all accounts, the Fabrikans Convention was a glorious manifestation of celestial and progressive ingenuity—in essence, the coolest and radical arts event that Zimbabwe ought to know more of.
And to express credit to the effervescent Billius the Majestic, who was the MC throughout the entire event, we conclude with this handy quote from Greedysouth:
He ebbed and flowed with the mood of the crowd, and adapted to every moment. All the while being a walking statement of fashion. A born live performer, who sustained the Fabrik through the sheer will of his stage presence.
Editor’s note: All images used in this review were captured by Vigorous Aesthetics and Lennox The Photographer.