People UNTAGGED: Fundi

People UNTAGGED: Fundi

Finding Freedom - An Interview with Fundi

This edition of People UNTAGGED - our series exploring the complexities of gender identity - features Fundi: a DJ and music enthusiast from Langa, Cape Town. Fundi's journey of self-discovery, navigating music and fluidity in identity is a powerful reminder to embrace authenticity and live life on your own terms.

Hi Fundi! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Sure! My full name is Fundiswa Mbambani, but everyone calls me Fundi. I live here in Langa, originally from here too. I live with my partner and I wear two hats: DJ and creative with a huge passion for music! But I also work at Bridges for Music, managing after-school programs and coordinating exciting experiences like study abroad opportunities. 

So, it sounds like you've turned your love for music into part of your career!

Exactly! It's pretty lucky, right? To be working in a space surrounded by music, something I'm such a big fan of. It's definitely a blessing.

What kind of music do you create as a DJ?

Interestingly, I don't actually produce music myself. When I first started in music, I was a vocalist, singing soulful music and loving it. But working with different people made me realise the importance of the business side of things – you know, collaborations, music rights, that whole world. Unfortunately, as a vocalist, I had a bad experience where I felt exploited. People took advantage of my music and writing, and that really shut that part of my creative life down. 

Wow, I'm so sorry to hear that.

Thanks. But then I discovered DJing, and it felt like such a perfect fit. It was freeing and gave me a sense of control and ownership. No one could take that away from me. Now I'm really into electronic music, especially Afro house, Afrotech, and Amapiano. I also love remixes that blend Amapiano with electronic sounds – it lets me play the music I love while keeping it fresh.

So, what are your go-to tracks to get a party started?

(laughs) It really depends on the vibe! In my personal life, I actually listen to a lot of soulful music, the kind you wouldn't necessarily hear me play as a DJ. We all have different sides. Sometimes you want to chill with friends and listen to something more soulful and personal. There's even traditional South African music called Mbaqanga that I love, but you wouldn't guess that from my DJ sets!

Interesting! So, you pay a lot of attention to the lyrics?

Absolutely! The words and the message are what truly inspire me and get me moving. There's this amazing artist, one of the Bridges ambassadors actually, named Saki. Her lyrics are incredible, like something a goddess would write! Sometimes, I get so caught up in the words that I barely hear the beat. That's just how I am.

Can you tell us a bit more about your gender identity and how you express yourself?

It's an interesting question. I don't constantly think about my gender or sexuality in everyday life. It's more something that comes up when people ask. I'm definitely on a journey of self-discovery, and that includes sexuality and gender. It's like life itself – we're always learning new things about ourselves.

I'm comfortable with who I am, how I dress, and who I love. My partner is important to me, but labels aren't a huge focus. However, homophobia can be a challenge. Recently, I saw a video about a man struggling with his mom's rejection, and it resonated with me.

My culture can make these conversations difficult. Family might not understand that identity isn't a choice, and that it can be complex. But I mostly just live my life and avoid overthinking labels or pronouns.

Do you have preferred pronouns?

I'm flexible. I understand that people are learning, just like I am. It depends on the day – sometimes I feel more masculine, sometimes more feminine. They/them, she/her, he/him – I'm open to it all.

You seem strong and comfortable in your own skin. Did this come naturally, or were there key moments that shaped you?

Loss can be a source of great strength, but also vulnerability and pain. When someone you love dies, you experience immense pain, but as you heal, strength emerges. It's about moving on while healing. This realisation, that life is finite, has given me a lot of joy. We choose what matters and how we navigate life. Experiencing hardship, homophobia, and loss has also made me strong. There's a balance, though. Sometimes you need to be strong, but other times, vulnerability is okay.

Can you tell me more about the LGBTQIA+ community in Langa?

There's a lot of segregation within the queer community here, similar to other parts of Cape Town. People tend to live separate lives, and there's not a lot of close interaction. This isn't necessarily bad; straight people don't necessarily befriend each other just because they're straight. We acknowledge each other and know who we are.

What excites me is the younger generation, the high schoolers. Their personalities are blossoming, and they're comfortable being themselves. It's a beautiful contrast to my experience. My life orientation teacher was homophobic and restrictive. Now, I see so many kids just being themselves, and that's amazing.

There are generational differences. The generation before mine had a more intense journey, often unable to be their true selves. My generation tries to be the best versions of ourselves, but fear holds us back due to past violence and societal judgement.

Overall, the community is open. There are some negatives, but it's generally cool. We have Langa Pride coming up in March. Originally, it was about educating the community. But in the process, we learned a lot too. We realised there's still a lot to learn within our own community. It's also about connection. Meeting others and finding out that you're not alone is powerful.

It can be hard to talk about sensitive topics like gender identity. How did you overcome that initial hesitation to talk openly?

Absolutely. It's not something you just bring up randomly. There has to be a reason and a safe space for sharing. Amongst friends, we shared our deepest experiences as queer people in Langa and Cape Town. We even acknowledged that we contribute to the hatred and homophobia ourselves. Some younger people get judged by older generations who might say, "You're too much!" But haven't those older generations also faced judgement for how they dress or act? Maybe there's even a hint of envy there. It takes guts to be yourself in this world.

We judge each other within the community too much. We focus on appearance, clothing, even who you talk to. There are cliques, and judgement flows freely. Hopefully, over time, we'll learn from each other and see things from different perspectives.

What about the new generation coming into the music program? Do you see a difference in how they feel about themselves?

It's interesting. With this new group, there's a beautiful comfort and confidence in who they are. We all have shadows, but what matters most is how you want to portray yourself to the world.

So, being visible as a queer person in Langa can inspire the next generation. Did you have a role model growing up?

Yes! Initially, I resented some friends who had already begun exploring their identities. I wanted answers, but they wouldn't tell me. Looking back, I'm grateful they didn't pressure me. There was someone I looked up to, a strong person I could talk to openly. We'd have long conversations, mostly about the challenges of being queer. It took me a while to even consider the positive aspects. I'm so grateful for that mentor and friend.

It's tough not having someone to talk to. You mentioned being homophobic yourself at one point.

Yes, unfortunately. I was in a very dark place, hating myself and other queer people. I think I saw myself in them, and it scared me. Everything I knew about being queer involved death – news stories about violence and murder.

The news media doesn't help, and social media can be triggering too. It made me want to stop this journey entirely.

What helped you get out of that dark place?

Death, again, but in a different way. Losing a loved one made me realise life is finite. If we don't live honestly and discover who we are, we die miserable. That's what motivated me.

I quit church because their teachings didn't resonate with me. They shamed homosexuality, which was hypocritical considering some members of the congregation were likely queer themselves.

Thankfully, I had a circle of queer friends. It wasn't planned; it just happened. My mom even thought it was suspicious! We were all on our own journeys, but together, we found strength and acceptance.

What are you most proud of?

My ability to speak comfortably and share my story, even the painful parts. It's about finding a different perspective, where even from loss, something new can be born.

Is there a message for the LGBTQIA+ community?

The world is not as bad as we think it is. We are all designers of our own lives. If you wake up tomorrow and you want to design it with misery, that's what you’ll get. If you wake up and decide to design it with beauty, that's what it's going to become.



Picture by Vivian Camphuijsen
Special thanks to Alex Revers

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