Voice's of Colour's Stories of Systematic Racism at HWY Festival

This week, Carly spoke to 20 year-old law student and Brisbane Local, Anisa Nandaula, from Voices of Colour - who is working on a piece ‘Stories of Systematic Racism’ at Brisbane’s La Boite’s HWY festival in April.


Each year La Boite runs HWY, a festival of ideas and platform for emerging artists – allowing for new works and workshop sessions. This year, Anisa and Jonathan Sri will launch this work at HWY, boasting rappers, poets, dancers and singers from various backgrounds as they talk about their own experience with Systematic Racism in an engaging way to connect with audiences.


Anisa moved from Uganda to Australia and began studying law, before winning a poetry competition that saw her pursue creative endeavours outside of her legal studies – teaming up with Jonathan to launch ‘Voices of Colour.’ Voices of Colour is a monthly meet-up for people to join in an open mic night to share their creative endeavours. Now, Voices of Colour will launch this ticketed work from HWY at La Boite.

Read the full interview below:

Anisa Nandaula

Stories of Systematic Racism uses a multitude of performance forms – including rap, music and spoken word – to explore the machine of systemic racism. How have each of these pieces come about and how much of the process of putting together this show is collaborative with other members of the Voices of Colour collective, and how much has to be an individual experience?


The construction of each of the pieces has been a very individual process. We simply put out a theme which was systematic racism and we asked artists to create a piece that responds to that. After the individual pieces were created, as the host I got all the pieces together found a way to weave all of them together through spoken word poetry. 


Each of the contributors to the collective has a story to tell – how much of your personal stories and experiences inform your works. As art inspired by personal truths, how do you decide how much of your story can be shared with the audience and what is too personal to share? As an artist, how do you find that line?


A majority of my work is influenced by my personal experience because that is something that I know better than anyone else. The way I find that line is by asking the question "is sharing this going to leave a worthwhile positive impact on the audience?" If the answer is yes then i share it. However, if the answer is no and bearing a particular truth is of no positive benefit then i decide to keep it to myself. 


Arguably, the conversation of systematic racism is more important now than ever before as we continue to see acts of baseless hatred inflicted on innocent people world wide. The Voices of Colour collective has been sharing these important messages for a while. In what ways does art and performance contribute to the important conversation that we need to have at the moment about the impacts of racism?


Art contributes by doing something that no other political debate often does. It humanises people and takes them away from simply being numbers, statistics and political pawns but rather human beings with hopes and dreams. Art does this through a genuine act of storytelling that puts people listening in the shoes of the performer. It is the creation of empathy and connection that adds a much needed human element to the dialogues of racism. Furthermore these are stories being shared by the people being affected themselves. Art allows you to connect to the source itself as opposed to a second-hand opinion of how a particular group are, think or behave. 


Talk us through the process of creating this work – how do you approach the creation of a new piece and how do you continue to refine and reform the piece throughout? Do you find that you are inspired by the rhythm of the piece initially or do the words come first? What is the process of writing a new piece?

 The process of writing a new piece usually starts from a fire. A particular issue gets my heart so fired up that i cannot help but to verbalise or externalise my opinion in some way. As a spoken word poet i usually speak my work and then write it down if i like it. I usually create in quick bursts of 6 minutes and then refining the piece could take me anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 years. 

Finally, what is the most important message that you hope audiences will walk away from this evening with and who should attend this HWY Up Late performance and why?

The most important message i hope that audiences take away is that although racism affects a particular group of people we are all responsible. Ins situations of injustice apathy is not a choice available to us if we want to create a kinder and more equal society. I'd love people in the audience to leave and ask themselves how can i' on an individual and day to day level work to deconstruct systematic racism. Whether it be calling people out, attending rallies, voting for political parties that support genuine multi-culturalism or even questioning racist behaviour that they may exhibit.



Favourite production you have ever seen?

One the bear 


You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?



Dream show to create?

A silent production where people speak using their bodies 

Plays or musicals?


A hobby you have beyond the theatre?



What’s next for you after this show?

Doing a play called Voiceless and Judith Wright Centre in April.

Stories of Systematic Racism is part of HWY Up Late with Voices of Colour, a program in La Boite's HWY Festival. The program runs from March 26 - April 6, but you can catch Stories of Systematic Racism on March 30. Get your tickets here.

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