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Black, female, proud; the sweet ingredients of Honey’s success

A vital part of being a Honey is being able to think outside the box. Wild, crazy thoughts are encouraged.

Kim “Busty Beatz” Bowers, for instance, is trying to nut out how to transport a 3.5m beehive 15,000kms or so from Australia to the UK so that Hot Brown Honey, the Spice Girls of the burlesque world, can continue their quest for world domination.

Bowers is a founding member of the troupe which has become a runaway success in Australia and will perform at fringe festivals in Scotland and Ireland after a sell out show at the Sydney Opera House starting this week.

Bowers says it’s unthinkable that the Honeys should arrive in the UK without their beloved, light-pulsing hive. It would be like Wonder Woman without her invisible plane, Batman without his Bat cave or Jack without Jill.

Where the Honeys go, so does their hive.

“She speaks,” Bowers says. “It’s like mother earth talking.”

The Honeys are Samoan director, designer and choreographer Lisa Fa’alafi; NITV Move It Mob Style dancer Juanita Duncan, a Kamilaroi woman; Maori artist and award winning beatboxer Materharere Hope Haami; Tongan soul queen Ofa Fotu; circus artist Crystal Stacey, who is of Indonesian descent; and of course Bowers, a DJ, producer and musical director, who has a South African heritage.

And they’re on a roll.

“It’s like a little bit of history making. Just like the Spice Girls,” Bowers says.

“We are breaking new ground in a whole lot of ways in that our show is written, directed and performed by women of colour.”

The seeds for their Girl Power movement were sown almost five years ago when Bowers, Fa’alafi and Bower’s sister, Candy B, a performer, actress and former ring mistress for Circus Oz, got talking.

“We were all sitting around one day just talking about feeling frustrated at the lack of diversity, the lack of brown faces across the stage, page and screen in this country . . . kind of going ‘Where are the spaces and places’?” Bowers says.

“We came from such varying backgrounds we were like ‘Why don’t we make our own space? How do we do that? We feel like there’s nothing here for us at the moment.’ We started making different sorts of acts that made us really laugh.”

The acts grew, they picked up other performers on the way and The Honeys were finally born about two years ago.

“Everywhere we did this funny little show people would just come out of the woodwork and say ‘I really want to do something’,” Bowers says. “We’re working with some of the people we’ve worked with before and then we met women we’d heard about. Like we’d heard about this amazing singer Ofa who lives in Perth and seen some of her film clips and went ‘Oh my God’. So we started talking to her.”

Now the Honeys are strutting through an Australian entertainment world Bowers says is dull and oppressive, wearing in-your-face leopard print (it’s a send up of stereotypes) with the catch-cry “fighting the power never tasted so sweet”.

The sisters really are doing it for themselves and while they perform burlesque — there’s even strip tease — it’s also satire.

“It’s so funny. It’s like a trick. You go ‘Oh look this is burlesque’ and then we go, ‘Actually it’s political theatre,” Bowers says.

“The show bases itself on the fact we are a group of black and brown women who intersect on stolen land, and how that affects most of the things that we do.

“We’re from such varying backgrounds. I have a South African background and there are some pretty major links to what is happening and has happened in Australia and what happened and is happening in South Africa, politically.

“And then it’s basically all our stories. We have Maori woman, Samoan woman, Tongan woman, an Indigenous woman and myself.

“We’re all kind of going ‘How do our stories work coming from this place, living on this place that isn’t really, well, apart from this Indigenous woman, ours.

“How do we roll with it?”

The Honeys have performed at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Adelaide Fringe Festival and the Brisbane Festival, to glowing reviews. People even travelled from other states to catch their show.

Bowers says in some ways she’s not surprised by the reception they’ve received — the world is ready for the Honeys.

“We know that there are people out there who want to see points of difference on stage,” she says.

“We can look at our theatre companies, we can look at television in this country, bar some of the most excellent stuff like Cleverman, everything else is completely whitewashed.

“This is weird because this is not really the world we live in.”

Globally too, Bowers says the time is right.

“There’s a lot of stuff globally happening with the black movement and the feminist movement,” she says. “It is girl power, but it’s almost been with added rocket fuel.

“In the times we live in at the moment people are really speaking out about things that are not ok. A lot of time people were silent about stuff, but now it’s time to talk it up.

“To say ‘Actually this isn’t the right way to live. Let’s work out how we do this’.”

And as the Honeys prepare to pack up their beehive and head to the UK — they play the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August and the Tiger Dublin Festival in September — Bowers is sure they’ll find some anti-colonial sympathisers among the Scots and the Irish.

“There’s at least a good chance there will be a whole heap of people, who, you know, are anti-colonialists,” she says cheekily.

HOTBROWNHONEY_SOH_L-to-R.Crystal Stacey.Hope Haami.Busty Beatz.Lisa Fa’Alafi.Ofa Fotu.Juanita Duncan_image by DylanEvans


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