Black Birds go past skin colour

Black Birds, billed by the Sydney Morning Herald as one of the hottest 20 stage shows this year, is the latest production from The Q at The Joan.  

Black birds: A look at women of colour in modern-day Australia.

Black birds: A look at women of colour in modern-day Australia.

Created and performed by Emele Ugavule and Ayeesha Ash, 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. More importantly though, they share experiences that unite them as women of colour in modern-day Australia.

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.

In Black Birds, these women explore their identity and what it means to be a third culture child – born in a country different to your parent’s ethnicity, mixed in skin colour and ethnic identity and raised in another country where no one else is like you.

Black Birds is not just about hair. It is a collection of stories from women of colour.

“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,” said Ash, whose family heritage is Maori and Grenadian.

“Black Birds is about reframing the word ‘black’ and the stereotypes and ideas that we attach 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.”  

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

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

The show blends music, movement and spoken word, mirroring traditional Western theatrical forms and their own traditional Indigenous performance practices to create a unique performance.

Come along to The Joan and experience the latest offering in over 50 years of ground-breaking theatre making. Don’t miss out on the chance to see one of the must see shows this year.  

Performances are on: Thursday, March 30 and Friday, March 31 at 7:30pm, Saturday, April 1 at 2pm and 7:30pm, Thursday, April 6 and Friday, April 7 at 7.30pm and Saturday, April 8 at 2pm and 7.30pm.

Tickets on sale now at The Joan box office, 4723 7600 or online