Artist Akashi Fisiinauaâ€™s latest show, Femslick, is a sensual composition of political statements turned into dance and performance. MCâ€™d by Fisiinaua herself, the show is an uncompromising and radical series of vignettes centred around themes of body politics, othering, the objectification of brown bodies, gender issues and voyeurism. A Vogue Ball and nightclub ambiance set the pace and background for these fierce performers who callout voyeurs and society â€“ represented by the audience â€“ while also giving a generous, almost friendly lesson on body politics.
While highly contemporary and relevant to modern day, Femslick exists outside of time. It was born in South Auckland, but speaks the truth of many subcultures of the colonised world. The more local it becomes, the more globally it is understood. The show discusses â€“ or performs, dances - themes that have been ongoing ever since brown queer bodies were first objectified but in such a fine, stylised way that one can almost mistake it for only a show.
As the piece evolves, the lines between reality and theatre blur; at some points the cast is in the audience, cheering and observing. At others, right in the middle of a controversial scene in which Fisiinaua pushes artist Jaycee Tanuvasaâ€™s voguing performance beyond her limits, one is suddenly made self-conscious and aware of observing her struggle and exhaustion as exactly that; a performance. This is a show in which the audienceâ€™s role as observer is used as a critique of the outside world. The usual fourth wall is shattered to pieces to strip bare the power dynamic at play. The audience is made to feel challenged, it is commanded to participate, to convene, to process what is going on. While it is a performance for outsiders, it never stops speaking to the members of its own community; â€śthose are my friendsâ€ť says Tanuvasa after she asks all people in the room to raise their hands if they have ever felt their identity has been questioned.
Sweat running down their bodies, breath quickening, the exhaustion of constant performance is carried onto the stage, where the everyday challenge of preserving oneâ€™s identity is put in the spotlight. While the ambiance is energetic and pumped, the mood is not always cheerful; the animated party attitude is often shown to be a conceit for the internal struggle of being brown and queer in Caucasian society.
Subtle yet provocative, primal yet sophisticated, friendly yet aggressive, Femslick is a heavily loaded show, one which will give the finger to patriarchal white supremacy, make you reconsider your internalised prejudices and leave you thinking long after it has finished.
One must not watch Femslick, one must surrender to it, learn from it, absorb it.
Produced by FAFSWAG Arts Collective and Funded by Creative New Zealand. Directed by Akashi Fisiinaua and styling by Jasper Powell. Featuring Akashi Fisiinaua, Jaycee Tanuvasa, Cypris Afakasi, Falencie Filipo, Gabriel Halatoa, Jacob Temata, Jaydess Nand, Akashi Fisiinaua and Moe Laga.