Jamaica Moana is a Sydney-based Rapper & Artist – descending from Māori (Ngāpuhi/Tainui) and Samoan lineage. Spiritually entwined with Hokianga & Waikato, she is ready to “bring the bars, the sex, and the fire” in her work and performances. Keep scrolling to read her review of Brown Skin Girl.
I had seen the advertisements for this production online and I was instantly captured by the beauty of strong brown women. Strong brown women with purpose. I had been invited by the Director Ayeesha Ash to attend the show as a reviewer to gather a strong sense of the community reaction. I was immediately excited and attended the show on 5th Feb. My friend and I entered the Old Fitzroy Theatre and were instantly greeted with the lovely sense of community in the line waiting to enter the theatre door. Conversations about the amazing reputation The Old Fitzroy Theatre has with their productions. I was expecting nothing less with the remarkably talented Creative Team; Director Ayeesha Ash, Assistant Director/Producer Emele Ugavule, Choreographer Sela Vai and the Actors/Creators Emily Havea, Angela Nica & Ayeesha Ash.
As I casually strutted my head to toe leopard print outfit down the stairs, there was a sense of mystery with a glowing orange floor seen inside the theatre room. I’d describe it as desert bare earth, it was stunning (we later found out it was hand painted and not lighting!). As the show was unsurprisingly high in demand, we were offered cushions for the steps to rest on, which made me feel a sense of culture and comfortability. There were 3 wooden chairs neighboured with pot plants upstage and just the right light to prepare for the show. Ayeesha walks out and greets the audience with a beautiful smile and firstly blesses the land we are walking on. She powerfully stated that Sovereignty was never ceded. She continued to tell us to feel to laugh, cry and dance as much as we like – I was down for that. It was an amazing preparation for the beginning of the piece.
The lights were dimmed and the 3 women enter wearing white underwear while exhaling intense crying, every loud cry was unique and expressed a different sense of urgency and path of experience in their stolen generation. The feel was confronting, but lined with understanding. When the women dressed themselves, I was intrigued by the white clothing they were wearing. They radiated a sense of light and purity. The tone flipped with a humoured list of derogatory names brown women receive. This was unapologetically explaining the truth. Each woman had time to explain their heritage and their situation as experience with living in Australia in the present day.
Ayeesha - Māori (Tūhoe) and Grenadian – let us know of her cultural connection with Aotearoa. I instantly felt an inclusion into the piece with Māori culture being represented. With a hilarious twist of 2 tourists in the scene obnoxiously thinking they know of Grenada more than she does – because they went on a cruise to visit. This displayed the lack of knowledge visitors to our countries may have when entering and exiting our lands.
Emily – Tongan Australian – expresses that she always dealt with people’s confusion of her Tongan appearance and Australian accent - having being asked “Where are you really from?”. She explained the reaction of people to her short hair, mistaking her for a boy – I empathised with these experiences dealt with here in Sydney. Also her questioning why having longer box braids made her feel more feminine when realising those feelings are internal.
Angela – Italian African American – strolls to the front to allow the audience into her multicultural life. She grew up with a Italian family – her Nonna makes the best pasta she says! - and stands strong as an Italian woman, conflicted with uneducated people who didn’t see culture past our skin. She continued to let us know about the strength and power she holds with being a proud African American woman while holding on to her Italian roots.
Hearing these women’s stories, opening my eyes to see what they endure separately, being People of Colour.
The movement pieces choreographed by Sela Vai were raw, heartfelt, ethereal and left the audience feeling warm. Dancing to “Don’t Touch My Hair – Solange” with Afro combs and stunning choreography, expressing unity and power, what an amazing piece to experience! Another scene that stood out to me was a game show skit “You know you’re brown when…”. I actually experienced all things listed including; getting your eftpos card held until it says approve, not being about to find the right nude coloured undies in Kmart because they’re all too light”. Towards the ending of the show, the women hyped up the room with fierce energy to Survivor - Destiny’s Child – unapologetically having fun. I couldn’t help but make some noise & have a boogy!
The audience was then invited into a sing-alone to beautifully close the show. I was left with wanting more. I felt so included and welcomed to a piece that explained a lot of my own culture and personal experience as a Person Of Colour in Australia. Through humour, wit and genius, this creative FEMALE team has cooked up a powerhouse show of importance, relevance, pure strength, diligence and power. I left feeling powerful.