WOMEN OF THE ISLANDS - ELYSSIA RA'NEE WILSON-HETI
ELYSSIA RA'NEE WILSON-HETI
PERFORMANCE ARTIST/PRODUCER/ACTIVIST & DISOBEDIENT DISRUPTOR
Fakalofa Lahi Atu my name is Elyssia Ra’nee Wilson-Heti. I am a Mangere based performance artist, producer, activist and disobedient disruptor from the arts collective FafSwag. I am of mixed Heritage
My mothers side of the family are English and my fathers side of the family are Niuean, we have other blood lines that run through also so we are a pretty mixed family.
You're directing & acting in a theatre production called 'Reclamation' can you tell us what it's about?
Reclamation is a collaborative work made up of a cast of four Pacifika and Indigenous wahine, our cast include myself, Maila Baker Urale, Ria Hiroki and Falencie Filipo. Reclamation is the second project that was chosen for Basement theatres 2019 Visions Project and has had support from CNZ.
Reclamation is a interdisciplinary performance work made for stage, exploring female desire, pleasure and body positivity through the use of joy. We are disrupting the space with dance, music, spoken word, activation with big joyous energy.
The intention of the work is to help add to the conversation around de-colonisation in relation to our bodies and our sexuality.
Why do you think it's important to tell this particular story?
I think there are multiple reasons why this is an important story to tell and explore. As a fat brown woman, women who look like me aren’t represented the way I think we deserve or celebrated in a way we are worthy of. But there is a wind of change happening with artists like Lizzo we are seeing fat brown and black women taking control of how we’re being represented.
This is the hope of Reclamation that we have a range of brown femme bodies on stage taking up space to celebrate ourselves and each other. We're creating a work where we are having discussions around desire and pleasure openly where these are usually only done in private.
Can you tell us about the pathways that led you to what you're doing now?
I have always had a great love of performing and telling stories right from a very young age. I gravitated towards creative subjects in high school which led me to go on to complete a certificate of performing and screen arts at Best Training. After the completion of my certificate I took a few years off, then went on to start my performing arts degree at Unitec which was cut short with the birth of my eldest son Jude.
After the birth of my son I went on to do a few small theatre performance’s. Then I took a break from performing to focus on learning to produce through the Arts collective I am part of FafSwag. I love collective practise, as it creates a strong network of safety and you get a lot of support.
I started to venture back into the performance space as a performer last year in a a work created by Julia Croft and Virginia Frankovich called the Plastic Orgasm which was apart of the Fringe festival programming.
What has been your biggest challenge & also your most rewarding moment of your journey?
Biggest challenge has been pushing though my own self doubt and knowing that the stories I have to share are worthy of telling and that my ideas are enough.
The biggest reward in my journey so far has been getting to see my community react and respond to the work we have created and facilitated as a collective. I take real pride in the spaces we have carved out for our community to engage with.
What advice would you give for other rising Pasifika creatives?
The advice I would give other rising Pacifica creatives is to always think bigger than yourself, never limit yourself in your pursuit’s. Learn to interrogate your work and arts practice vigorously, keep yourself accountable.
Learn to be open to sitting in uncomfortability its a great space to learn things in. Keep the intention of your work in the fore front of your mind always.
Find your people, not yes people either find people that love you and your work enough to tell you no and let you know when you may be getting it wrong.
These people are more valuable than gold. Practise self care and look after your energy. And lastly in an unkind world be kind.
Reclamation opens on the 19th of September at the Basement Theatre.
Click on the link here to get your tickets
* Cover shot photo credit: Pati Solomona Tyrell