‘Reclaiming Who We Are’: Hot Brown Honey Is Fighting Stereotypes With ‘Joyous Rage’

Joyous rage. That's what Hot Brown Honey promises to deliver when it returns to Sydney's Opera House on May 4 with a new show.
The collective of global First Nations women — most of whom are from the South Pacific — has been touring around the world for the past eight years. Using hip-hop, dance, cabaret, circus, poetry and comedy, the group has always delivered a message of intersectional feminism and anti-colonialism.
"As women of colour, we are always depicted as angry or emotional or crazy," one of the group's members, Alinta McGrady (aka 'Badass Mother') tells Refinery29 Australia. In the new show, titled Hot Brown Honey: The Remix, the performers face these stereotypes head-on, ultimately reclaiming space and autonomy over their bodies.
"In the show, we allow that space to be those things and express it through art. It's reclaiming who we are and acknowledging that those things aren't negative," says McGrady.
"We like to call it joyous rage," adds Hot Brown Honey director Lisa Fa'alafi (aka 'The Game Changer').
"We're pulling apart universal stereotypes from the 'maid' to the 'dusty maiden' to the 'savage'. Especially in the media and theatre, we always seem to be portrayed as lesser than ourselves," she explains.
"So for us, we want to shine as bright as we possibly can. We want to be our whole selves, sharing that onstage and want to see more of it [in the industry]."
The Samoan Australian artist explains that storytelling through music, dance and art is intrinsic to Pasifika cultures. As "the latest models of our ancestors", she and her group members are adapting tradition to the present to express themselves. The group can't simply be categorised as a dance troupe, music group or something else so concrete.
"We tell our stories through dance and music," she says. "It's a continuation of using that whole vessel," she says, "which is why when people want to define us into some sort of category all the time, I'm like, we use whatever — the physical or oral form that we can get our hands on to tell our story."
Hot Brown Honey has been touring over the past eight years, and last took to the stage at the Sydney Opera House in 2017. This time audiences will see some of the group's fan-favourite routines return, along with some exciting new acts.
Fa’alafi will once again perform her dance satirising the Polynesian dusky maiden stereotype, McGrady will sing a song called 'Badass Mother', and Maetehare Hope Haami (aka 'Hope One') will be performing a beatboxing routine, to name a few.
As the group's director, Fa'alafi has always championed each group member's strengths and passions to deliver a show-stopping spectacular that touches on identity and diversity. "It all comes together and I think Lisa's done a beautiful job of weaving those stories in our own art forms as well," says McGrady.
Ultimately, the performers want audiences to "feel joy, sadness and anger" with them throughout the show.
"When you go into that theatre space, sometimes people are so reserved because they're just the audience," says McGrady. "But actually, it's a relationship that we create in that space and we don't want you to feel disconnected from it."
After a two-week stint in Sydney, what will be next for Hot Brown Honey? Next month, the group takes its show to the UK, but Fa'alafi says she's got her sights set further.
"We always giggle about a Netflix series because we sort of find our superhero selves in the show," she says. "Albums and films" are also on the wish list, but above else, maintaining a sense of community and supporting other women of colour will always be the priority.
"It's about helping and just being supportive. Everyone's doing solo shows and albums — there's so much going on and we hope to keep the family lifted."
Hot Brown Honey: The Remix is playing at the Sydney Opera House from May 4 to May 13.
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