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These Cabaret Performers Want To Change The Way You Think About First Nations Women

"I'm not weaving a basket for my husband, I'm weaving a fricken couture outfit."

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Political cabaret act, Hot Brown Honey, is using dance, poetry, comedy, circus and striptease to smash stereotypes about First Nations women.

Dylan Evans / Via Supplied

The talented group of performers from Aboriginal Australian, Samoan, Tongan, Māori, Indonesian and South African backgrounds will be taking the stage at the Sydney Opera House this month for five nights after a sell out season at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Adelaide Fringe Festival and the Brisbane Festival.

The production's co-creator, writer, director, choreographer and designer, Lisa Fa’alafi, uses her creative work to take apart the idea of the Pacific as “exotic” and "magical".

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"You think of the [stereotype of] a woman sitting on the rock combing her hair, and all of my pieces really pull that apart," Fa'alafi, who is Samoan Australian, told BuzzFeed News. "I'm not weaving a basket for my husband, I'm weaving a fricken couture outfit."

Women of colour "cannot be ignored forever", she said, adding that the only Pacific Islander performer she remembers on screen was "Jay (Laga'aia) from Playschool".

"In our hearts we knew there was an audience for it, but when the audience helps prove it for us with a sold out season, I am totally in awe."

The show is "a fast paced lesson in race politics", she said.

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"It is firstly a celebration of other women of colour and then it is education for other people."

She said the production was founded on the philosophy "it is hard to be what you cannot see" and that audiences need to experience their diverse stories reflected back at them in order to feel inspired.

"It is a moment for people who don't have to think about race every moment of their life to reflect on the issues that we face and maybe look back on their own privilege."

Hot Brown Honey co-creator, writer, musical director and sound designer Kim "Busty Beatz" Bowers said "brown women are always portrayed stealing or cleaning on television and in the arts".

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"Actually, there are so many interesting stories, because we have this amazing history and culture of First Nations people that goes back over 50,000 years and then these amazing influxes of migrants, so let's mix it up and tell those stories," South African-born Bowers told BuzzFeed News.

"We have a whole community of brown honeys around us so we know so many wonderful performers, actors, singers and it's time they got a role because it is lonely up there."

Bowers, who is also an international DJ, said she loves listening to "female hip hop" and artists like Nina Simone and Queen Latifah, who make her feel powerful.

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Indigenous Australian artist and poet Aunt Lilla Watson and radical feminist Audre Lorde were other sources of inspiration, she said.

"Basically all of [the performers] are women of colour. We get a whole heap of stuff that is put on us about how we are perceived and we're saying just because you're brown it doesn't actually mean you fit into a stereotype."

"It is part theatrical explosion and part political activism", where audiences are told to "check their privilege at the door", she said.

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"What you think people wanna see is actually not what they want to see anymore," she said. "They wanna see empowered women on stage."

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