Art dedicated crowdfunding platform Boosted and Creative New Zealand have joined forces to highlight the Pacific arts in Aotearoa, with the Boosted x Moana fund set aside for Pasifika artists and their creative mahi.
There are five $5000 and ten $3000 grants that have been given to 15 Pasifika creatives and arts organisations as match funds on crowdfunding campaigns - with Boosted, run by the Arts Foundation, matching donations from the crowd dollar-for-dollar, as long as they meet their fundraising goal.
Fine Fatale, a performing arts collective with the kaupapa to amplify Pasifika and Māori Trans and Queer MVPFAFF artists, is one of the groups fundraising as part of the campaign. Their goal is to reach $15,000 to put towards a 2022 national tour of their cabaret production of Fever: Return of the Ula, following on from their sell-out performances at the Auckland Live Cabaret Festival earlier this year (donate to the campaign here).
We spoke to Amanaki Prescott-Faletau, co-director of the Fine Fatale group, on their motivations and impetus behind their involvement.
Tyson Beckett: Tell me about the history of Fine Fatale, the lineage of the group and how you came to be involved?
Amanaki Prescott-Faletau: The majority of the girls in the group, we all graduated from PIPA [Pacific Institute of Performing Arts]. At the time, a lot of us weren't getting work, even though we did graduate from drama school, we weren't getting gigs, we weren't getting call outs for auditions.
One thing we were all really good at was dancing so we all were just like "let's show up to a studio and have a jam and see where it takes us". People started becoming interested in us because no one was really doing what we were doing.
I am the co-creator/co-director. I started the company with my best friend Mario Faumui. We were the older queens who graduated first, a lot of the younger girls were still studying so we felt like a bit of a responsibility to give back.
Mario was already quite established and I got picked up to do two Victor Rodger plays. We were getting work so it was, "Alright what can we do to help out the girls?"
Your last show, Fever, had a sold-out run earlier this year as part of the Auckland Live Cabaret season. What was that experience like?
It was surreal for a lot of us. Growing up, some of our aunties and uncles would be the cleaners at the venue [The Civic's Winter Garden]. Amanda Wilson, our stage manager, her parents met there.
It was such a big turnaround because now we get to be in the same space, and not only cleaning but performing! At The Civic, in the middle of Queen Street, in Auckland.
We blasted it all over social media, people probably thought it was annoying, but it was such a big deal to us because as queer brown people we don't get put on main stages like that.
To be an ensemble of queer brown Pasifika girls, it was a massive deal to us. It was a humbling and beautiful experience to be able to celebrate who we are, on the main stage, in front of our friends and family.
We were all work work work, getting the show finished, so it wasn't until opening day that we were able to just be sitting in our magic and living in our power.
Talk to me about the Boosted x Moana campaign - what are you hoping to achieve?
We're hoping that we can spread the magic all over Aotearoa. We're just doing what we love to do and we want to go out there and spread some love.
After that Auckland show, the feedback from our queens, our sisters and our community, especially the young ones, was: “I want to dance, I want to get on that stage as well, I want to be at that level”.
If we can make our community feel this good in Auckland, imagine what we can do all over New Zealand? It's not just about us going on tour and living a great experience, it's about us empowering marginalised queer brown people, building them up and giving them courage, thickening their skin and educating those that dont know.
Your Boosted campaign page talks about how you want redevelop the existing show to further engage with wider audiences especially our Trans and Queer communities beyond Auckland. Why is that especially important?
As artists it's important to hear the world and talk about issues that aren't being spoken about.
It's our responsibility as queer Pasifika people who have been given a platform to give back in some sort of way. To encourage the wider community about what is possible. We don't have to settle being hairdressers and makeup artists, or working on the street and doing sex survival work. If we can do it, anybody else can do it.
A big thing also is to really educate the unknown, let them know that we're just as human as anyone else, we bleed the same. All we ask is that simple thing we all learn in primary school: treat people the way you'd like to be treated, it's really quite simple.
The Boosted x Moana campaign is to really help us elevate the show. We created the show specifically for the Winter Garden at The Civic; it was really catered for that space so we would love to give that same experience elsewhere. But we're short on some coin.
There's another section on the Boosted page that I found really powerful. It says “To some, this show will be an education, a history lesson, a cute night out with the girls, a kiki, a date night, a laugh. But for girls like us, this is more than that”. What does the group and your performances mean to you?
As performers, we're living our fullest fantasy, enjoying our bodies, dancing as sexy as we want to be and being celebrated for it. But the underpinning line that runs through the show is body sovereignty and really connecting back into our ancestral line and remembering that we were celebrated before western influences.
We were goddesses, we were turned to when our villagers needed help, we were caretakers and we were doing both. We carry both spirits - female and male - and I feel like we needed to really ground ourselves and remind ourselves that we can do it all.
If I have to build the church with a baby on my hip and raise some funds for my family, I'll do it all at the same time, let's not forget that! I would do it with some lipstick and some hoop earrings!
It was about reminding ourselves of our power, of who we are as brown Pasifika queer people but also educating those who dont know, so they can understand us a little bit more. And reminding our own culture and our own community of where we come from and who we are. That we too have a role in the house and we too have a role in our culture and in our religion.
It was us gaining power but at the same time we were living our absolute fantasy.
For some people, when they hear the word ‘cabaret’, their minds won't immediately think of Pasifika dance forms, but the two mediums are actually a natural fit. Can you talk to me a little bit about why they work so well?
The reason I think our show got highlighted so much was because we’re not talked about enough. It's not been talked about from our own experiences.
Within the show we talked about our own experiences with love, our experiences on dating apps, our experiences with public toilets, the really nitty gritty things that we don't really get to talk about.
We really want to educate people, I guess on how to treat us nicely. To respect us as we respect everybody else. We go on about our day. We just tend to do it with feathers and some diamonds on our face, but we're minding our own business. I think it was really important that we had an education element that really shared our experiences and got everyone to understand our perspective.
We also want to remind our industry that it needs to come from us when it comes to creating content specifically to queer Pasifika people. There's nuances that people don't capture unless we're telling those stories.
I felt like our show was really special because again it's not spoken enough, but also it's not spoken by us enough.
For people who aren't part of the community, who may not have been to a show like this before - how do they have a good time while making sure they remain respectful of your art?
We always love to have a giggle. We love to have a laugh with our audiences, we're quite interactive.
Our MCs, The Taka Tu Wops, love to interact with the audience and make them feel comfortable and I think it is also important that as queens we're able to look at ourselves and have a giggle about ourselves and warm up the room. I feel like that breaks the ice, loosens them up and gets them to listen.
Sometimes it's alright to read ourselves and talk about the elephant in the room but it must only come from us and us only!
Have a seat, chill, enjoy yourself, come with your friends and your family but know there's an underpinning line of education and cultural respect.
That's our goal with our shows: it might be decorated with feather boas and rhinestones but there's always a moment where we talk about the issues that are happening within our community.
• Fine Fatale have 8 days to go on their Boosted x Moana campaign and are 80% of the way to meeting their fundraising target of raising $15,000. It’s all or nothing - meaning if they don’t hit 100 percent, they don’t get any of the funds. Support their art and donate to their drive here.