FAFSWAG is an arts collective of Māori and Pacific LGBTQI+ artists and activists founded in Auckland, New Zealand in 2013. They explore and celebrate the unique identity of gender fluid Pacific people and LGBTQI+ communities in multi-disciplinary art forms. In 2020 FAFSWAG was awarded an Arts Laureate from the New Zealand Arts Foundation, and they also represented New Zealand at the Biennale of Sydney.

Members of FAFSWAG lounge and sit around a room looking fierce in their beauty
FAFSWAG Family Portrait 2016
head and shoulders of Tanu smiling at the camera, on his suit jacket is a medal
Tanu Gago in 2019 receiving his Queens Birthday Award


Pati Solomona Tyrell and Tanu Gago formed the collective in 2013.[1] The project grew from a photography project of Gago's that was a part of a university project.[2] FAFSWAG create art and experiences in many different art forms with a strong online focus. Their goal is to "celebrate Queer Brown bodies, contemporary Pacific arts, and cultural restoration".[3][4] FAFSWAG are committed to social change; they challenge the lack of Indigenous LGBQI representation in creative industries and they articulate through their art projects the fluid gender spectrum in Pacific culture.[1][5] The collective's name is a portmanteau between fa'afafine and swag.[2]

Initially there were ten artists in the collective and by 2020 in addition to Tyrell and Gago FAFSWAG artists included: Jermaine Dean, Falencie Filipo, Tapuaki Helu, Elyssia Wilson Heti, Nahora Ioane, Hōhua Ropate Kurene, Moe Laga, Ilalio Loau, Tim Swann and James Waititi.[1]

The first FAFSWAG Aitu Ball was held in South Auckland in 2013, however from 2016 balls have been held in central Auckland.[2] At the core is the 'queer brown community' and the dance form vogue that originated in New York amongst marginalised African American queer communities. The FAFSWAG ball is an inclusive space that celebrates the unique culture of Māori and Pacific and also invites participation from others, "whether you're Asian or Indian or Pākehā: there’s a place for you in that space as well.”[6][7]

They were the 2017 Company in Residence at Basement Theatre, and were the winners of the 2017 Auckland Theatre Award for best overall body of work as a result.[8] In 2018, FAFSWAG held a ball at the Auckland Art Gallery.[2] In 2019, founder Tanu Gago was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to art and the LGBTIQ+ community.[4]

In 2020 a production Fa'aafa was scheduled in Berlin at HAU Hebbel am Ufer, (the production was cancelled). The name Fa'aafa is a Samoan term recognising a third gender, and the production combined poetry from Tusiata Avia, 'adornment of voguing', movement and sound.[9] For their Sydney Biennale project in 2020 FAFSWAG were required to re-vision it to be online due to Covid-19 restrictions. The project was named CODESWITCH: Relearn, Reimagine, Recreate – a FAFSWAG Manifesto for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney.[10] It was made up of a number of works including Protection (2020) by Nahora Ioane and Tanu Gago, created in response to the criminalisation of homosexuality in the Cook Islands; Whānau Ariki (2020) by Amy Lautogo, Ria Hiroki and Elyssia Wilson Heti, a 'game-like experience of dressing a woman' with the aim of decolonizing the bodies of the artists; and M A T A L A by artists Hohua Ropate Kurene and Tapuaki Helu, a series of photographs of men and flowers with themes of manhood, identity, sexuality and intimacy.[10]

Other collaborators FAFSWAG have made projects with include Apple, Air New Zealand, The Discovery Channel, Les Mills,[11] and Coco Solid. FAFSWAG have presented at the Auckland Art Gallery, the Auckland War Memorial Museum, Artspace Aotearoa, and the Centre of Contemporary Art, Christchurch.[12]


FAFSWAG is inspired by New York Ball culture.[2] Founder Tanu Gago felt that queer spaces for Pasifika can act as a counter to traditional Pasifika voices in the community, which tend to be older, more conservative and more religious.[2]

Exhibitions & worksEdit



  1. ^ a b c d e "FAFSWAG". Arts Foundation. 28 September 2020. Retrieved 31 January 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Mackley-Crump, Jared; Zemke, Kirsten (2019). "Marginalisation and Events". In Walters, Trudie; Jepson, Allan Stewart (eds.). The FAFSWAG Ball: Event spaces, counter-marginal narratives and walking queer bodies into the centre. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-429-50669-7.
  3. ^ a b "FAFSWAG". documenta fifteen. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  4. ^ a b Zemke, Kirsten; Mackley-Crump, Jared (2019). "'Sissy that walk': Reframing queer Pacific bodies through the FAFSWAG Ball". Queer Studies in Media & Popular Culture. 4 (1): 85–98. doi:10.1386/qsmpc_00007_1. ISSN 2055-5695. S2CID 203416520.
  5. ^ a b c "FAFSWAG". Biennale of Sydney. Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  6. ^ Syfret, Wendy (21 June 2016). "fafswag is the auckland collective celebrating queer pacific islander culture". i-D. Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  7. ^ a b c Borrowdale, James. "Auckland's Vogue Balls Are a Church for Queers, And Everyone Else". Vice. Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  8. ^ a b c Prior, Kate (21 November 2017). "We're Here, We're Queer, We're Going Nowhere: FAFSWAG at The Basement in 2017". The Pantograph Punch. Retrieved 15 February 2022.
  9. ^ "Fafswag / Pati Solomona Tyrell". Hebbel am Ufer. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  10. ^ a b c Taratoa, Arpege (16 September 2020). "CODESWITCH: Relearn, Reimagine, Recreate – a FAFSWAG Manifesto for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney". CIRCUIT Artist Film and Video Aotearoa New Zealand. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  11. ^ a b "Neil & Liam Finn Share Video 'Where's My Room' Ft. FAFSWAG". Under the Radar. 5 March 2019. Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  12. ^ a b "MAKING SPACE: FAFSWAG | CoCA Centre of Contemporary Art Toi Moroki". Centre of Contemporary Art. Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  13. ^ Olds, Jeremy (7 August 2015). "Fafswag: The artists telling queer Pacific stories". Stuff. Retrieved 1 October 2021.
  14. ^ "Artspace Aotearoa - FAFSWAG: Disruption Vogue Ball". Artspace Aotearoa. Retrieved 1 October 2021.
  15. ^ "LATE 2018: Explicit Inclusion Identity". Auckland War Memorial Museum. Retrieved 15 February 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. ^ "FAFSWAG vogue ball". Auckland Art Gallery. Retrieved 1 October 2021.
  17. ^ "FAFSWAG at Centre Pompidou". Contemporary HUM. Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  18. ^ Fenwick, George (8 February 2018). "The groundbreaking documentary on FAF SWAG and Auckland's vogue scene". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  19. ^ "FAFSWAG". Biennale of Sydney. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  20. ^ "Fafswag / Pati Solomona Tyrell". Hebbel am Ufer (in German). Retrieved 1 October 2021.

External linksEdit