It’s been six months since FAFSWAG delivered the work of emerging Pacific artist Akashi Fisiinaua for the stage. Entitled FEMSLICK this work played a significant roll in transforming the creative spaces FAFSWAG Arts Collective have been able to occupy. Typical impression for Pacific performing artist is that formal institutional spaces and commercial spaces are the same thing. While Basement Theatre operates as a public trust and trades under a commercial business model, the theatre actually allows for a lot of creative freedom for new and emerging artist to experiment and find their voices. This freedom is reflected in the way FEMSLICK was able to find a new audience but also establish for the artist involved a new practice for unconventional story telling and something akin to the authenticity of the streets where the culture and the world of FEMSLICK is cultivated.
For a first attempt at trying to imbue Auckland’s underground Vogue culture with a theatrical premise and stage identity, FEMSLICK was definitely an ambitious project for first time director Akashi Fisiinaua and of course for FASWAG – a collective know more inextricably for it’s visual arts output than it’s theatre production. We had only recently, within the last 6 months prior to the production, established a series of very key game changes for the wider Vogue community in Auckland. 1) We transitioned the Ballroom scene from it’s suburban origins to it’s new home in Auckland’s CBD. 2) Akashi had stepped up from relative obscurity to play a pivotal role as the first ‘REAL’ chanter for our little but hugely disruptive scene. An ingredient that has been missing from the equation for a long time. 3) The visibility of the community went from zero a hundred in the space of a hot minute, thanks to internet and the prolific documentation of photographer and digital artist Jermaine Dean. 4) FAFSWAG established this weird social media exchange of Vogue Ball Promo Video’s and elevated the artistry of how you package particular club nights for this generation of Pacific Vogue Ball club kids. Every step in the process created fertile conditions for FEMSLICK to roll out into unknown territory and fuck it all up for good!!. And to be completely honest – that’s exactly what happened.
Documenting our moves as artist is a staple of how FAFSWAG operates. We hooked up with VICE Australia to create a doco about FEMSLICK that ultimately went on to become a doco about the underground Vogue Community in Auckland. Something we are extremely proud of consider this movement failed to interest our own local media landscape in the five years we’ve been doing this shit. With the exception of the occasional fluff piece about Pacific religious rejection of gays or dancing fafa’s from the south-side. The acknowledgement of our community as a significant culture paradigm is something that for years continued to go over the top of peoples heads. Ironically the international attention of our small scene is was what shifted the local media landscape when it took outsiders supporting local diverse communities to tell their stories and on their own terms. FEMSLICK being the catalyst for all of it.
FAFSWAG is always the risky bet. The artist have blatant disregard for genre and they’re not interested in power sharing unless it’s with the underclasses. If you’re looking for a cute lil family friendly number then depending on the equity of the potential outcome to be mutually beneficially then you’re more likely to get the more than what you asked for. Its a simple philosophy but the artist in this collective are more interested in self determination than trying to fit the mold. Something that makes perfect sense when we consider how unknowingly FEMSLICK broke new ground for a production that was only really seeking to tell an authentic story.
So what changed as a result of this show? Well…. FAFSWAG are now the theatre company in residence at Basement Theatre. With the first production in the series of seasonal shows being the debut production of FA’AAFA created by Pati Solomona Tyrell for the winter season. FEMSLICK creator the Banji C*nt herself – Akashi Fisiinaua has been offered some great emerging artist development opps and FAFSWAG has handed the Vogue Ball hosting reigns to the newly formed “Auckland Vogue Community” who are a community lead initiative of Voguers from all regions of Auckland. They hosted the Ratchet Ball at Family bar in May and are looking at holding down the scene with regular Vogue Jams, workshops, Vogue Knights and the occasional Vogue Ball. It’s open to all that are keen to play a leading roll in keeping the space warm and open for Niu blood. We’ve seen the community expand and become more inclusive and it’s pretty dope to see the other squads like the Bloodbath gurls come through. Something we’re really excited to see happen in the space. Now people can stop asking FAFSWAG artist if all they do is Vogue and the wider Vogue community can make a distinction that FAFSWAG is not the identity of the community.
Of all the great spin off’s from this project the greatest has been figuring out what value looks like for not theatre practitioners operating within theatre. Especially when that value becomes something communities are able to leverage for themselves for their own desired outcomes. It seems pretty mini in the scheme of things but actually pretty radical considering how little leverage has been afforded to those same creatives before any of this.
Clearly we weren’t the only people that had opinions about things. But if your looking for a balanced perspective on things you probably need to look somewhere else. Because these outside perspectives seem all to happy to agree with us lol. Shoutout to the artist and writers that bothered to publish their thoughts on the situation. Thank you x