“Why men great till they gotta be great… Just took a DNA test and I’m 100% that bitch even when I’m crying crazy, yeah I got boy problems that’s the human in me. Then I solve ’em that’s the goddess in me”
Said by the most iconic, curvalicious and unapologetic queen herself: Lizzo (if you haven’t heard of her look her up now). Lizzo’s anthem sounds over the speaker as four more queens embrace centre stage. They are boxed within a giant Cube – neon lights stream through the plastic walls. We’ve been invited to an all brown femme party. Our eyes prance as we see each and every wāhine move freely together in, out and around the cube. It is like watching your best girlfriend be her most authentic self: all you want to do is ride her joy and hype her the hell up.
Falencie Filipo, Mother of House of Aitu and Fafswag member, lives her Teyana Taylor faded fantasy emitting the confidence we all wish we had, grinding, thrusting and all round slaying the house down with her fem slick body. Everyone around me nods their head accompanied with an agreeing ‘mhmm’ as we listen to her sermon of self-love and visibility as a Fa’afafine woman. Her testimony demands respect and equal satisfaction for all genders advocating wholeheartedly for loving thy self before loving others. She relates to all women who have been disenfranchised (whether we are cis, trans or non-binary) that we re energize our rights to our own physical wants and needs being met.
Both Ria Hiroki and creative director Elyssia Ra’nee Wilson-Heti add to this conversation as they take us through Clitor-acy 101. Accompanied by a deliciously sexual fruit montage and the sharing of fruit on stage we are given an education on the female genitalia (though I feel that the people that really needed to hear this are not in the room). In many Pacific cultures we are taught that it is shameful and taboo to talk about sex, to be sexual beings and to be vocal about our own wants and needs as pasifika women due to years of learnt behaviour with the effects of Christianity and colonisation. Reclamation argues the conversation should be more about recognising what we are rather than what we should be. There is a need for unlearning behaviours in a world that expects creatures of desire to keep legs closed and remain silent about our own pleasure – you can give thanks to double standards, patriarchal society and conservative New Zealand.
Reclamation disrupts western ideology and influence – we see these women carry their ancestors on their chests and on their shoulders every time they move on stage. Vaimaila Carolyn Urale Baker brings the presence of a Afakasi Samoan woman grounded in both worlds. She speaks first in her mother tongue then propels her body back and forth to Solange’s ‘Don’t touch my hair’. Pasifika women are often coveted for beautiful thick long hair but not the varying sizes of thick kalo calves and thighs that often come along with it. Watching her (and the other women) I feel guilty for not feeling as confident as they were on stage in real life – but then you think about the premise of this show. This space these women have set is for all of us, made to reclaim and recognize indigenous ideas of what beauty is and smile at everything that we are. There is no need for interpretation as it is made clear every time they speak move and breathe on stage. Look at pasifika history and see the examples of fearless women and role models who lived unapologetically: Queen Salote (Tonga), Nafanua (Samoa) and Queen Maeva (Tahiti).
These taahine rebuke every word that has been used against women who do not fit in the western ideals and with their varying shapes and skin on stage they uplift all things being brown wāhine. It is time to decolonise the mind, tongue and the body and ceremonialize the power that we have for all future women.
As part of their two week long season, FAFSWAG have partnered with Activate Auckland to present the beautiful works of artist Vicky Tamariki as a free public event. The company is also supporting the Red dress project, an art installation recognising the lost lives of aboriginal women in Canada. Support these empowering women as well as those who work behind the scenes in the mahi they are doing. Take your mother, sisters, grandmothers and aunties to watch this beautiful collaborative piece produced by the Tanu Gago running as part of Basement Theatre’s 2019 vision programme. Its raunchy, its revolutionary, it’s so Riri savage fenty. One more thing. DISMANTLE THE PATRIARCHY.
Reclamation plays Basement Theatre until 5 October.