Emmaline Matagi talks to Akashi Fisi’inaua (aka Queen Kapussi), Vogue Ballroom chanter and member of FAFSWAG, whose Xhrome Xhrysalis project is part of this year’s Pride Festival.
Auckland Pride Festival is on now until 18 February and as part of the celebration, the talented and majestic Akashi Fisi’inaua is curating a one-off project at Basement Theatre on 10 February. The project, Xhrome Xhrysalis, is headlined by the renowned artist and performer Rosanna Raymond, along with a huge bunch of talented artists in a range of genres. I sat down with Fisi’inaua to talk about the project.
The Spinoff: So tell us about Akashi Fisi’inaua. Who are you? Where are you from? Family? Where do you call home … all those sorts of things.
“Oh, been trying to let it go
Trying to keep my eyes closed
Trying to keep it just like before
The times we never even thought to speak
Don’t wanna tell you what it is
Oh wee it felt so serious
Got me thinking just too much
I wanna set it off’’ – Amerie, ‘1 Thing’
Facts first: Akashi is a graduate of Toi Whakaari, the first in her family to gain her degree in Performance for Stage and Screen. She is an immigrant from Tongatapu, grew up in Kolofo’ou, and is the daughter of two go-getters.
Popularly known as the MC and chanter for the Vogue Ballroom Scene here in New Zealand, but also is an artist in the collective FAFSWAG. I’m first and foremost a Leiti because, before I can acknowledge the western terminology of ‘trans’, I need to acknowledge and pay homage to the lateral and literal violence exacted on Leiti bodies everywhere, the erasure of history and knowledge. But on a spiritual level, it connects me with a pre-colonial Tonga.
Onto my bullshit, Akashi, or as some of yall might know her as by her Insta handle @queen_kapussi, is a messy fem-queen, with a mind like an iron bar and fisticuffs, BBW, body made beautiful, fem-queen spirit first generation immigrant and is the subset of a respectable consensual messy interaction in ‘93 and she popped onto ya front steps and been carrying on ya lives since ‘94.
I grew up in a very particular time where it was that awkward segue from the ‘90s to the early 2000s, and because Tonga is literally a third world country everything seems glitchy when it comes to the filtrations of popular culture from America. And so it feels kinda bootleg, my experiences of growing up in Tonga. For me, it felt like I was in a Britney music video, looking like a CPU hard drive from the early ‘80s. And, meanwhile, it did kinda feel like a J.Lo futuristic music video, I knew from an early age it wasn’t real and that I’d have to get out sooner or later because… “My love don’t cost a thing”.
Who is Queen Kapussi (Formerly Boy In A Dress)?
Instinctively and subconsciously, we have been documenting our journeys, multifaceted personalities, unique points of view and mundane lifestyle flexors on the net since day dot and, almost like a hacker, sometimes going in under the guise of an alter ego name – a vigilante, superhero title almost. Like Beyonce with Sasha Fierce or when Batman is Bruce Wayne in real life, but his handle on the net would be Batman or the DarkKnight009 and, like most people who have any sought of interface with the internet on a regular basis, that representation of self is provided through emoji, 200 word capacity caption visual stimuli of identity and micro sub-packaged human complexities.
What I’m trying to say is, what I’m doing is just what everybody else is doing, like hieroglyphics and phonetics. I’m cyber, articulating what I’m tryna realise in the moment, the kinda limitlessness. I’m tryna cyber manifest for myself, and intrinsically tryna protect, the best and worst parts of me that’s just for me, onto a wavelength of conversations that’s already happening around self-love and self-defence. And, like the keyboard warrior on chat forums that wants to flex an arm or a leg in any sought of online debate, I have a big thing on branding and representation.
Firstly, it must speak in a real satirical kinda way to where my messy life is at, at this point in time in relationship to whatever bullshit I’m facing first and foremost, but on a wider lens is in relationship to the context to where I am with the larger community in New Zealand and the world, because I want to always geolocate where I am in proximity to the wider conversation and what is going on. But articulating and cementing an era, like mental stimuli when I look back to @_boyinadress, or @princess_fijiwater and what the thematic of that era was, it’ll just be like putting on a VR headset and all those images, sound, textures, and emoji-cons come forth. But the backstory on Queen Kapussi, she’s the Cybertron wife of King Kapisi from the four eithers of the dark web, who’s still tryna escape the gaze of her jealous ex, LIKE STOP VIEWING MY CONTENT PLEASE! haha.
Where did she come from? What does she represent to you? What do you want her to represent to others?
Queen Kapussi first started out as a joke between my friend and I. We would talk about the political climate in which music is existing here in New Zealand, and how all of a sudden there is this resurgence of Woke Tunes, co-opting the agency of a movement with major music corporations to deliver listeners these bite-sized digestible buzzwords like, ‘Melanin Poly Futurism/Corn beef Spiritual Jedi’, ‘De-colon-ize and Demystify’. LOL.
And how under the impressionisms of patriarchy, how this is co-opted and recycled to represent these meaningless and hollow representations of the movement. I thought of the work of King Kapisi and the song ‘Screams from Da Old Plantation’ there is a line, “come into my plantation I got more than coconuts to show you”. I relate very much with that line because in a way it relates to my relationship with the intensity in which I am engaging my body and voice in the fight, what I am adding into the conversation and what I am building. Queen Kapussi is that digital representation of Akashi in the cyber world, that is co-opting with the masters tools, e.g. Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Grindr, Scruff, etc. that is dismantling patriarchy with her nude selfies, talking about the trade, about heartbreak, fear and anxiety, etc. and broadcasting her life. Because representation is important. But also being aware that, this too is rebellion.
Queen Kapussi is, for myself, first and foremost and people will draw the line for what they want my brand to represent to them. I’m pretty clear in distinguishing what’s real for me and what’s for other people. I want people to understand their own power, I’m not an effigy. I understand that people love icons and symbols because of the idea or the value they represent. So in sayin’ that be a symbol for yourself. There’s room for everyone! To be honest.
Tell me about FAFSWAG and what it represents to you as an individual?
“Carolina H 6 hottest bitch on the block
Use to puff philllies and dutchies and stuff nicks
Now I write movies the cutie from fife fifth
Life like a movie she writing her own script” – Azealia Banks, ‘Gimmie a Chance’
FAFSWAG for me, is a network of fine fibrous muscle tissue that is carrying blood and oxygen, life force and vitality, from one end of the limb to the other, that’s scratching at the back of Urban New Zealand Polynesian culture and its conservative values and points of view, but also has it by a choke hold. FAFSWAG is at the forefront of Urban New Zealand Culture but still operating in a very community grassroots capacity but at a high velocity of generating material out of literally nothing!
Which is very reflectant on the hierarchy in the mode of investment models that the arts sit in a New Zealand context. And is not necessarily a critique on the content in which we are pushing out constantly, nor is money ever the motivation for our art, but somehow I feel torn cuz for me money is very much on my mind, and a bitch needs to get her life shit together. But a reflection on where New Zealand could be, in producing, investing to grow urban culture in a meaningful way.
That is also operating within an ecology of similar networks, of artist, instigators, performers, radical militant limbs (past and present). Ready on the mere pounamu and the akau tau to attack, and on the rose water and the coconut oil to heal and incubate. I’m tryna not get too meta about it cuz its not that deep. But even that is language of pacification that has been taught to us by the missionaries before they boosted with our lands.
When I first met FAFSWAG back in 2013 my first interaction with them was through social media, with the vogue balls. And for me, at a time when I was still tryna figure me out, a lot of the conversation at the time was around the gay agenda and was around equality and freedom. Four months into my first year in uni, the gay marriage bill was passed. And while the world was talking about this and celebrating, I feel the polynesian LGBTQI+ community specifically had been and is still dealing with the after-effects of colonization, because the world moved forward, but forgot that it shat on a lot of indigenous people who are still tryna heal and is still tryna rectify that, but not having the language to articulate that, because of hundreds of years, of pacification and suppression. And for me when I met FAFSWAG officially in 2016, it was like a solid fresh breath of air, like I don’t mean that lightly.
FAFSWAG for me feels like an incubator, but also in the words of Tanu Gago, “A boiler room or a furnace,” it gets like at the speed at which we’re generating content into our independent careers and also to the collaborative work we do within the collective.
FAFSWAG have a really strong following and after the Basement 2017 Fa’afa, Femslick and Neon Bootleg shows you gained a new audience. What does that mean to you? How do you see it in the bigger scheme of things?
From an economic perspective, it means that we’ve branched out of a traditionally visual arts audience into a more, theatre kind of audience and there is revenue to gain from that, that’ll feed into more work being generated and more money in my pocket because maintaining a certain level of lifestyle as a trans person in New Zealand or anywhere for that matter is difficult especially when your freelancing as an artist. Like, let’s get one thing straight: Institutions need us. And not the other way round.
About Xhrome Xhrysalis – what does the name mean? What are you aiming to achieve with this?
Xhrome Xhrysalis is a curatorial project that provides a safe space for queer and trans POC folk to see themselves sonically, aesthetically and digitally represented during Pride. A space for up and coming artists and established and seasoned practitioners to link, connect, collaborate and network. Removing the middleman and providing a space for these conversations to happen as artists.
The name ‘Xhrome Xhrysalis’ is originally spelt ‘Chrome Chrysalis’, and a chrysalis is the cocoon a caterpillar forms for itself before it transforms into a butterfly. I removed the C and replaced it with an X, because two Xs make a female chromosome. So this honours feminine energy within a physical and spiritual aspect, of a transformation.
to our journalism!Find Out More
For a complete list of events in Auckland for the Pride Festival head to www.aucklandpride.org.nz
Buy tickets to Xhrome Xhrysalis at Basement Theatre 10 February 2018 here !!!
You should really also check our FAFSWAG newest interactive online project FAFSWAG VOGUE here!!!
The Spinoff’s music content is brought to you by our friends at Spark. Listen to all the music you love on Spotify Premium, it’s free on all Spark’s Pay Monthly Mobile plans. Sign up and start listening today.
Join The Spinoff Members for as little as $1 to help us hire more journalists and carry out more investigations. Or pay $8 a month and get a free Toby Morris-designed tea towel!
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.