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FAFSWAG presents Xhrome Xhrysalis. Curated by artist Akashi Fisi’inaua AKA Queen Kapussi. 

This one off interdisciplinary curatorial project is designed through the premise of digital spaces for indigenous queer artist of colour. The evening presents fashion, music, installation, activation and live performance. Headlined by iconic Pacific Sister Rosanna Raymond and featuring a number of Auckland’s hottest live acts and upcoming Poly instigators, activators and artist. This is an R18 event

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FAFSWAG

FAFSWAG is a visual arts incubator for queer indigenous creatives working collaboratively to activate public and digital space and disavow false representations of queer brown identities and bodies through creativity and self expression.

FAFSWAG operates across a multitude of inter disciplinary art forms and genres. We develop site specific cultural experiences and arts engagements that speak to our unique and diverse contexts as LGBT peeps from Oceania .

Artist Include: Jermaine Dean, Sione Monu, Pati Solomona Tyrell, Akashi Fisinaua, Moe Laga, Elyssia Wilson Heti, Manu Vaea, Tanu Gago,

Feel free to express your opinions on this page. Any comments referring to violence, sexism, racism or offensive content will be moderated. You have been warned.

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BLOG

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GENERATED FROM NOTHING

A reflection on time, space and popular culture

By Tanu Gago

FAFSWAG is an art collective that emerged in 2012 with very modest ambitions. In fact to quantify our intent as ambitious is a bit of a misrepresentation, at least in those early days. There wasn’t really any ambition and there was only really one intention, which was to state the obvious. That I identify as queer, and that I identify as Polynesian.

At the time we hadn’t considered the idea of a rainbow Pacific landscape or how that translated to a digital space. Our initial experience was a platform for sharing digital content that related to Queer people of colour. Of course the nature of sharing is about people coming together and so the trade off of life experience, some creative points of interest like arts, and an open forum for discussing Identity, culture and sexuality, generated an online community of anonymous consumers.

It became apparent that people had been looking for the means to connect with other people sharing similar interests and so from the outset we took liberties in defining what those were, using them as some guiding principles for creating an online brand. FAFSWAG went from being a colloquial phrase about Fa’afafine identity and contemporary urban style to presenting it’s self as a branded online blogging platform, adopting the tagline Queer, Pacific, Artistic, South Auckland.

Without appreciating the radical nature of a loaded political statement like “I’m a gay Samoan Male” meant that projecting my identity across the internet came with some interesting responses from those that were used to less overt intonations of sexuality and identity. The two ideas seemed almost mutually exclusive and the pairing of the two notions on an equal footing tended to evoke strong resistance from those framing the concept as morally questionable, unchristian and in some respects un-Samoan.

It seemed bizarre to me that a concept that underpinned my full identity could garner such invalidating responses from other Polynesians. Especially when the representation of that identity didn’t require their validation or consent. It has taken time and growth to appreciate the value of context and in those initial periods of FAFSWAG attempting to arrive at an audience, I quickly realised the views I had regarding my own identity are not necessarily the same views shared by our community. Over time I have come to acknowledge that distinction in the manner in which uphold and measure my own identity, values and notion of community.

Community is an interesting word. The base definition is simply put as … “A social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists”. It sounds straightforward but the complexity of utilising commonality as means of social grouping is of course deeply problematic, in that it paints indiscriminately with single brush strokes, over the varying gradients and flourishes that separate people from those same commonalities.

Often the word community is subjective to a person’s perception and in many instances subjective again to their personal experience. So while FAFSWAG was auditioning for a community it was also negating itself from other communities, merely by the inclusive and exclusive nature of collective gathering. Ultimately we have had to define what our community looks like for ourselves and parallel to real life this is a constant negotiation. Community and culture are not fixed and stagnate concepts. They are always in flux and constantly shifting. In similar respects so is the movement.

I use the term movement because when I reflect on the singular intention or as I framed it earlier “ambition” of this arts collective, I realise that it’s about upward and forward mobility. This mobility is self-determined and utilises creativity as a vehicle to propel people beyond their circumstance. It re-frames the conversation around, cultural identity and sexuality in a way that privileges the perspectives of queer and trans people of colour. It appreciates art and its full capacity as an agent for advocacy and social change. But fore mostly it affords queer people of colour a degree of power and control over the authentic representation of the experiences that constitute their reality.

When I was a photography lecturer at M.I.T’s Faculty of Creative Arts I recall telling my students that if you want to be an artist you better come correct, expressing yourself is a freedom that not every one is afforded in life and so take this time to figure out, what you want to say, why it’s important to you and who you want to say it to. In writing this essay I found myself revisiting my own words of advice.

The truth is no one asked me to speak on behalf of someone else’s struggle. I am not a mouthpiece for LGBT Poly youth and this is not Niu FM and we are not the beat of the Pacific. With that said we don’t diminish the voiceless and even though we have individual voices we acknowledge those who cant speak. In acknowledging that the views I present here are entirely my own I also acknowledge that no one here is obligated to agree with them. With that context planted firmly in the back of your mind I want you to understand that FAFSWAG means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. While it is a platform for visibility, that visibility doesn’t attempt to speak on behalf of everyone and only has relevance to those that identify with it, weather they have a voice or not.

When your art deals in human experiences you become accountable to actual human lives. The social responsibility of which becomes too great for any one individual to shoulder. Many of the artist and people associated with the collective come from underprivileged backgrounds and so recognising the responsibility to support those whose lives are impacted by your work is something each member of the team takes personally. And so the concept of community shifts and begins to mean a whole different thing. Which is where the surrounding support services play integral roles in our ability to project our identity within the broader social consciousness.

In 2014 I decided to apply for two health promotion roles within two different organisations. The first was an events management role at RainbowYOUTH, which has since been turned into a community engagement role. The second is Pacific community engagement role at the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. The motivation was based on being able to successfully bridge young people accessing the FAFSWAG forums looking for support to the appropriate channels of support. It made sense to me that working in the sector and transferring my skills and experience would broaden my networks and allow me to offer people the kinds of support I couldn’t offer as an artist.

And so here we are. It’s 2015 and FAFSWAG has grown into a very different experience from what it was 3 years ago. We have managed to maintain a collaborative approach to art that sees us now currently working in partnership with established and emerging artist, curators and arts and educational institutions within South and central Auckland.

Over the past three years we’ve had the privilege of producing and curating two group art exhibitions. The first entitled NO FRUIT WITHOUT LABOUR, was funded by GABA for the 2013 AUCKLAND PRIDE FESTIVAL and utilised an organising principle of sharing narrative and brought together queer brown artist working in isolation to share and compare their collective stories using a multitude of traditional and contemporary art genres. The second entitled Poly Typical used a similar ethos of securing public spaces for artist to unpack the notion of cultural typicality and responded to a system of stereotyping used to negatively frame the life experiences of queer and trans brown people living in Auckland. It featured ten emerging and established artist and had a robust public programme of events to generate broader community participation and engagement.

FAFSWAG is more likely to be recognised for an annual event entitled the FAFSWAG BALL that launched in 2013 under the production and guidance of former Auckland Council, Pacific Arts Coordinator, writer, activist and freelance curator – Ema Tavola as part of the joint project between Papatoetoe, Otara Local Board and the Faculty of the creative arts MIT entitled OTARAfest. The event is a live activation that brings American Underground Ball Culture to the heart of South Auckland.

We now have a committee of ten members, half of which are artist that all work toward producing public events for our people while expanding on our original digital platforms. We don’t charge for our services and so much of the collaborations are project based in which we build ideas from scratch, resource them from nothing and deliver them to our core audience mostly for free. The work that we are currently able to do is sustained through voluntary labour as well as community and arts funding grants, and meaningful creative partnership with other artist, institutions and organisations. There are no profit margins and so relying on good will and collective, skill, knowledge and experience is often what gets things of the ground.

Our agenda is simple. To every queer young person of colour in this country, I encourage you to think and speak for yourself and to speak up. Let us stop pretending that art is not a tool and that artist are not agents of positive and effective social change. Let us stop believing that the pursuit of our creative ambition is an intangible daydream situated outside of our ability to achieve and make real. Let’s stop telling young people that a creative life is a life wasted. Yes it’s hard to get a job, but that’s true for all industries and professions. So lets not pretend like Talent combined with integrity, passion and hard work isn’t going to radically transform your life the lives of those around you.

So speak… through whatever medium you feel comfortable with, writing, painting, music, drawing, dance, or just plain old speech. Speak. And if you need help then let us know cause we’d love to share our experience and knowledge. Our only condition is that you pass it on when your done.


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NXT15 – GROWING THE CULTURAL LANDSCAPE

Slides from Tanu Gago presentation Growing The Cultural Landscape for RainbowYOUTH at this years NXT15 Youth Leaders Conference

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FA’AAFA

FAFSWAG presents FA’AAFA Directed by Pati Solomona Tyrell Featuring poetry by Tusiata Avia Performed by Falencie Filipo, Moe Laga, Joey Tinai & Pati Solomona Tyrell

As a lens based media artist Tyrell’s story telling is immersive and world building. At its centre is his body, his culture and his community. Described in the image note for the publication ‘BLACK MARKS ON THE WHITE PAGE’ edited by Witi Ihimaera and Tina Makereti, Fa’aafa is referred to as…

“A portal into another world, its colours saturated by night and desire and the youthful swagger of its subjects, whose eyes issue a challenge and invitation”

Devised in 2015 as a solo performance Fa’aafa has travelled across Aotearoa for the past two years as a cultural Acti-VA-tion; a term coined by iconic Pacific artist Rosana Raymond. The ‘VA’ refers to a Samoan philosophical understanding of space as ‘active’, not as empty and passive, but activated by people, relationships and reciprocal obligations.

Fa’aafa 2017 from FAFSWAG on Vimeo.

This powerful interdisciplinary piece of storytelling continues to defy genre definition. Invoking dense cultural knowledge and translating Samoan epistemologies within a contemporary art language of movement and audio visuals for modern audiences. Dislocated from cultural space this works precarious form and other worldly aesthetic still make it difficult to categorise. Fa’aafa by its simplest definition is an ‘experience’. Fluid in language and physical phrase as it is in context and genre, Fa’aafa (A Samoan conception of half) is always in flux, existing in duality as a live performance and also a digital moving image artwork.

Recently featured as part of the Yirramboi First Nations Indigenous Arts Festival in Melbourne and MCA Art-bar at the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney Australia, Fa’aafa was delivered in its last iteration as a solo performance in the ‘Tama Toa’ showcase as part of the 2017 Pacific Dance Festival in Auckland.

Tyrell’s reimagining of the work for Basement Theatre will see Fa’aafa expand on its cultural mythology and narrative universe. Featuring a new cast of emerging and established performers, and an entirely new soundscape and visual design, with poetry by award winning Samoan poet Tusiata Avia, Fa’aafa will adorn a new silhouette for a new audience.

FA'AAFA Stage Production 2017

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WITCH BITCH

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WITCH BITCH came about through constant ‘talanoa’ between the artists Manu Vaea, Pati Solomona Tyrell and Sione Monu regarding Polynesian spirituality as a drive towards a cultural discovery of self. Their moving image and performance pieces speak to their reclamation of space within the Vā – the contextual and metaphysical space that exists between all things.

In March of 2017 FAFSWAG collective and cultural activation trio known as WITCH BITCH, Made up of visual and performance artist, Manu Vaea, Pati Solomona Tyrell and Sione Monu, presented new work at Enjoy Public Art Gallery in Wellington NZ. As part of the Wellington PRIDE Festival, the work was curated by FAFSWAG’s artist Tanu Gago and was funded by Creative New Zealand Pacific Arts Committee. Entitled Statuesque Anarchy the work is a synchronised 3 channel Video installation of the live activation of the same name.

The cultural activation Statuesque Anarchy was first featured as part of the cultural performance showcase curated by Rosanna Raymond for the International Pacific Arts Association Symposium in 2016. Titled ‘Feathers of the Sun’, the showcase was an evening of activation that featured various performance artist and activators. Sponsored by Tautai Pacific Arts Trust the evening feature new one of works by Tufala Meri, Grace Taylor, Rosanna Raymond and other artist.

Commissioned by FAFSWAG arts collective the new 3 channel video installation sort to reproduce the kinetic energy of the activation within a digital vocabulary that helped to present the artists collective ideas, creative and artistic response to Pacific spirituality. These concepts culminated over 2 years of personal research in precolonial cultural practices that originate from both Tonga and Western Samoa.

ENJOY

WB Opening 001WITCH BITCH |FAFSWAG

Sione Monu | WITCH BITCH

Sione Monu often uses Instagram (visit @sione93) as an art tool, constantly creating artworks that utilise the platform as a way of re-indigenising space as well as create accessibility for his community to engage with the works. His series of self portraits #BlanketCouture (2016) came to life due to a day of play but with only having access to the materials in his home. Although playful the use of blankets are on the artists’ body are striking and intimate is the artist challenges notions of representation and gender.

Manu Vaea | WITCH BITCH

Manu Vaea is an interdisciplinary artist currently completing a Bachelor of Visual Arts at AUT TeWananga Aronui o Tamaki Makau Rau. His practice revolves around the exploration of Polynesian mysticism, and the mundanity/complexity of existing as a queer Tongan living in South Auckland through poetry and illustration. Manu has been involved in many collaborative projects, one being ‘Statuesque Anarchy’ in Enjoy Public Art Gallery alongside collective WITCH BITCH and poetry devised theatre shows ‘Loud and Queer’ directed by Sarah Jansen and ‘Mouth:Teeth:Tongue’ directed by Grace Taylor. Vaea is also an active member of arts collective FAFSWAG and has been since 2016.

Pati Solomona Tyrell | WITCH BITCH

Pati Solomona Tyrell is an interdisciplinary visual artist with a strong focus on performance. Utilizing lens-based media he creates visual outcomes that are centered around ideas of urban Pacific queer identity. He has shown work at Fresh Gallery Otara, PAH Homestead, Museum of Contemporary Arts Australia and most recently at the Pingyao International Photography Festival. Tyrell is a co-founder of the arts collective FAFSWAG. He is a recent graduate of the Bachelor of Creative Arts programme at the Manukau Institute of Technology, Otara. Pati is originally from Kirikiriroa, Waikato but is now based in Maungarei, Tāmaki Makaurau

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God Head | WITCH BITCH | created by Pati Solomona Tyrell