Lisa Fa'alafi: 'Now is the moment to stop, think, breathe, reflect, plan and not apply too much pressure'

Lisa Fa'alafi: 'Let's use this time to really DECOLONISE AND MOISTURISE!'

credit: Danika Yakina

Hot Brown Honey co-founder, director and choreographer supreme gives us the lowdown on what lockdown means for the Honeys

As well as being a smash-hit, world-wide sell-out show, Hot Brown Honey is the embodiment of fierce intersectional feminism and high-octane fun. Anyone who has managed to catch the Honeys in action over the past few years at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe can attest to that, with each iteration of the show somehow surpassing the previous in energy, activism and humour.

Featuring a posse of powerful and talented First Nations women from the Global South with Aboriginal, Samoan, Tongan, Maori, Indonesian and South African backgrounds, Hot Brown Honey is all about smashing the patriarchy, celebrating our similarities and differences and making sure everyone has the best possible time courtesy of the Honeys' hip-hop, aerial and club-ready dance routines.

Due to head off on a tour of the UK and Canada this month, the group's plans have understandably been put on hold as the world collectively faces the negative ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. To find out more about how the Honeys have been doing and how their plans have been affected, we caught up with co-founder and director Lisa Fa'alafi (also known as the Game Changer), who has been using Instagram to keep connected in her own unique way.

How are the Hot Brown Honey crew doing? Is everyone safe and healthy at this strange time?
The Honeys are all safe and well. Most of us have been focussed on family and keeping healthy. The first few weeks I think we were struggling to know what to do as a team, but after the shock we have now all decided to take this time to go slow. Now is the moment to stop, think, breathe, reflect, plan and not apply too much pressure during these unprecedented times.

How has the pandemic affected HBH's plans for this year? Like many people, have you had to postpone most projects until 2021?
We have had our entire year of touring cancelled. We were literally about to head off on a three-month tour of Canada and Europe when the pandemic hit. It was a mad scramble talking with venues, cancelling freight, checking in with Honeys — it was everything changing all at once over and over … hectic!

Currently we are still chatting with venues who are all still wanting us to play one day, but of course no one really knows when larger groups will be able to assemble. We also had some plans to grow the Hive, creating other Hive City Legacy projects in Canada and the UK, we thankfully are continuing these conversations and we are hoping to begin developing these online. A whole new way of working, but if it gives us the chance to work with more femmes of colour from around the world then we will give it a red hot go!

Can you tell me a little more about how you've been using Instagram to stay connected? What is #HomePhotoshootRealness all about?
It started with me unpacking. I have literally been living out of a suitcase for the past five years, spending very little time at home. My suitcase is usually filled with practical clothes, lots of black, easily go day-to-night type vibes, all the tricks you learn as a frequent traveller. However my actual wardrobe looks like an explosion of fun and colour, filled with island prints, muumuus, vintage goodies, '70s Tropicana and so many ridiculous and beautiful pieces I've collected over the past 30 years, but rarely get to wear these days.

In those first weeks of COVID-19, I had been filled with so many feelings about the decimation of my industry, the fear around the virus and my family being safe and, well, just about everything. While in a COVID-spring-cleaning-madness I thought 'damn it, I'm going to wear these beautiful clothes to make myself feel better'. Since I can't wear them anywhere fabulashh, I'll share them with my friends on Instagram and maybe they might feel happy looking at these colourful explosions too. Since then I've realised there are lots of people doing versions of the same thing like #coronahighfashion #fashionfriday #BinDayOuting #FormalFriday #ClothesInChallenge and I'm sure many more. It's a bit of fun, a reason to get out of my PJs and a way to try to connect to my friends.

What can fans and audiences around the world do to support HBH and other artists and performers right now?
At the moment, while we organise how we will continue to make art, one of the best ways to support us is to send us love and encouragement. Follow our socials, like and share what we are doing. Even though online is not our preferred medium, we are being forced to try to engage more, so of course we need to teach ourselves new skills, new everything, and with all the noise on the internet I think it is difficult. But we hope to stay connected to our community around the world as much as we can.

You can also buy some of our cultural awareness merch available on our online store. You can find our custom earrings and we finally have a Decolonise and Moisturise t-shirt available. All money we raise is going to go towards paying our team for these online initiatives we are trying to roll out.

What are you most looking forward to doing post-lockdown?
For me, getting back on stage. I know this might not happen for even longer than the end of lockdown, but watching our entire industry go virtual has made me realise even more how important live performance is. Being able to connect in the flesh, our minds, our hearts together. I hope to be able to do that again.

Do you have any tips/advice for people at home that are looking to stay creative while in isolation?
I think in general we all are realising how important the arts are to our isolation time. Everyone has more time to enjoy music, books, film, dance – remembering how much joy the arts can bring, in general people are reactivating their creative brains in a big way. So instead I'll send my tip to industry creatives who are currently having to reimagine their entire practice. Don't force yourself to be part of the noise, or you can go for it and submerge yourself: remember, there is no right way to respond and if it's feeling overwhelming, it's okay to be creative in smaller ways. It's a great time to use the space to dream about what type of new normal we want to go back into. It's time to shift the paradigm so let's use this time to really DECOLONISE AND MOISTURISE!

Follow Lisa on Instagram at instagram.com/lisafaalafi and instagram.com/hotbrownhoney. Visit the Honeys online store to support the team and their future work.

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