Inside the Skeyi & Strobo Fabrik Party & Zimbabwe’s Stylish Creative Scene. For anyone interested in Zimbabwean street culture, the annual Skeyi and Strobo Fabrik Party or SS Fabrik Party is the best place to go. It has allowed artists and businesspeople in Harare to showcase their wares and ideas via catwalk displays, performances, pop-up shops, and exhibitions.
Last month, Harare’s social elite gathered at the First Floor Gallery for the sixth time. Colorful streetwear and other unusual flourishes have become the visual signature of this event. Fabrik Party creator and organizer Ulenni Okandlovu calls it “the creative’s revolutionary party, a celebration of vibrant street art and its emerging subcultures.”
The words “Skeyi” and “Strobo” represent English development. The terms “Skei” and “Strop,” borrowed from South African Dutch, refer to a yoke for cattle shoulders and a twisted string made from tanned cowhide, respectively. These phrases have been combined to represent the power and unity of the SS Fabrik Party.
Okandlovu claims that the concept for the gathering came from a desire to establish a stable creative environment in which artists and creatives from different communities may meet, discuss ideas, and exhibit their work.
It’s “an apt and contextual platform serving as a much-needed space for young creatives, artists, and designers in Zimbabwe to display their artistic talents in an uncut, unfiltered, uncensored, and raw manner transcending the dominant policing of fashion styles that characterizes our current era,” Okandlovu told OkayAfrica.
The Fabrik Party has allowed several independent Zimbabwean labels to showcase their wares. Numerous runway shows have included it, including shows by Haus of Stone, Rozebowl, Zimbabwean Sunshine, Rori Bisamu, and many more.
Beginning in 2020 at Mbare Art Space, a series of pre-event “activations” promoted the year-end Fabrik Party. From then, it gained momentum, expanding to host subsequent events at locations like IBUHUB, the Old Mutual Greatermans building, and the First Floor Art Gallery Harare. There were three performances in 2022.
Okandlovu reflected on the history of the Fabrik Party, saying that each iteration welcomed a new challenge that served as a chance for growth. He stressed the need for teamwork in making each occasion a reality. When working on a project, “we always work as a collective of like-minded individuals allowing every individual to shine,” Okandlovu remarked. We provide proper credit where it’s due.
As examples of regular Fabrik Party partners, Okandlovu included the First Floor Gallery Harare, the Caligraph collective, Mbare Art Space, and many more.
The Fabrik Party is no longer just an art and design exhibition; it has evolved into its creative subculture. “The movement has inspired people to appreciate local streetwear and homegrown products as well as adopt environmentally sustainable practices,” Okandlovu added.
Many people consider the period since the rise of the Fabrik Party to be the Zimbabwean creative renaissance. According to Okandlovu, Zimbabwe’s artistic community is in its infancy but already seeing tremendous development and interdisciplinary exchange.
Okandlovu is not just a party curator but a musician, fashion designer, and journalist who utilizes all three mediums to convey tales. He and Joshua Madalitso Chiundiza make up half of the Bantu Spaceships, a Zimbabwean band that blends New Jit Wave with traditional sounds like jit and sungura.
The Bantu Spaceships have shared the stage with bands like Stogie T, Ami Faku, and Black Motion on an international stage, most recently at this year’s MTN Bush Fire festival in Eswatini.
Okandlovu has big aspirations for the Fabrik Party’s future, including growing the party’s influence and area. “We have been working in phases,” Okandlovu said. Expanding the activation process to additional cities around the nation and area is the next step, which we are about to begin.