The Joan presents Black Birds

CREATIVE: "Black Birds is a chance to look into how difficult it is to fit in and belong as a woman with brown skin," Emele Ugavule said. Picture: Alana Dimou
CREATIVE: "Black Birds is a chance to look into how difficult it is to fit in and belong as a woman with brown skin," Emele Ugavule said. Picture: Alana Dimou

“I had this idea sitting in my head and was interested in producing something that was completely female based,” Emele Ugavule said.

“I knew I wanted to create a piece that involved a group of women and drew on the inter- and intra-cultural practice of ethnic backgrounds.”

Emele Ugavule and Ayeesha Ash discuss, explore and offer a vision for what it means to be a woman of colour in modern-day Australia, in their production Black Birds.

The pair are two women who have a few things in common – names that seem difficult to pronounce, the colour of their skin and their hair – dark, strong, afro hair.

Can I touch your hair? How do you wash it? Does it get wet? Where are you from? What are you? Questions that can actually cause embarrassment, or reinforce a sense of not belonging. Questions that are often asked without blinking an eye or considering how they may make a person feel.

“We explore what our identity means to us, being third culture kids growing up in Australia,” Ugavule said.

“We are from different cultural backgrounds but what we have in common is how we’re treated according to our gender, skin colour and our hair,” Ash said.

Ash, whose family heritage is Maori and Grenadian said Black Birds is about reframing the word ‘black’ and the stereotypes and ideas attached to it.

“People of colour are often put into the same box of ‘other’, but we’re diverse in culture and experiences, and we want to bring that to the stage,” she said.

Black Birds doesn’t only engage the audience, it seeks to encourage conversation by highlighting how problematic labeling and categorising black and brown identity is in Australia.

In this show, these women are challenging stereotypes by giving people an insight into their daily reality.

Ugavule, whose of Tokelauan and Fijian descent, said Black Birds is a chance to look into how difficult it is to fit in and belong as a woman with brown skin.

It explores how a simple thing such as not being able to buy ballet tights or underwear in your skin colour, challenge your feeling of belonging.

Emele Ugavule

“We want people to understand the subversive marginalisation that occurs on a pedestrian level and how stereotypical ideas of black and brown women re-enforce this.”

  • Various times, March 30 to April 8. Tickets: $30 – $35. To book: thejoan.com.au.