Following on from Sarah’s interview with Chris Lynch, we continue the conversation with powerhouse performer, facilitator and creator, Candy Bowers, for her passionate and personal insights into what Queensland is for her.
My identity- political, personal, spiritual, emotional, sexual and cultural- is my art practice. I write and perform poetry, spoken word theatre, burlesque and comedy that centres on my experience as an outlier. As an actor I use my life and my identity to create roles and breathe life into characters. I get very cross at marketing people that try to package me- I find they either want to exoticise or Anglicize me – I fight for my right to be my unique full self-complex, easy, rich and sticky.
I am a writing and performing animal. It’s second nature. I have never done anything else and it has been my main source of income for the last decade. I don’t know how I would survive the oppression if I weren’t an artist. To be visible and to be heard, to halloo my stories and speak of my ancestors is as vital as breath most days. When I hear artists of colour speak my truths, kill me softly with their words, I breathe. It makes me feel real and loved. I know I do that for others too. It’s simply vital.
It seems to me that people are so afraid of upsetting what they are familiar with- that is what they know (whether this is good, bad, inhuman or whatever) that they will not speak for fear of losing it all. It’s like a group of folks sitting in a room with a pile of steaming feces… It’s the artist’s role to call out “that shit stinks” especially when folks are pretending it’s not there. In contrast there may be a beautiful native garden growing under there feet – which folks are trampling and destroying… it’s the artist’s role to call out “look – there’s beauty here.”
As an Artist who makes her bread and butter from touring, home is actually something I think about quite a lot. I was born in Dandenong in Victoria, moved to Campbelltown NSW and as an adult lived in many suburbs in both states before moving to Brisbane in 2011. I was looking for a place to rest- a hiatus from a busy freelance career. My work took me around Queensland often and I was particularly attracted to the Murri community and cross-cultural projects happening in the state. I have made my greatest friends as an adult in Queensland.
I have found life in Queensland as very conducive for my practice- perhaps because I came from the hustle and bustle of Sydney and Melbourne. The slower pace and lack of “old guards” made it easier for me to create and sell my wares about town and to the regions. I don’t see it as a motivating factor, but as a good scaffold. I understand from chatting to other groups and individuals that have grown up in Queensland that my experience differs from many. I have seen and worked with great talent in the Sunshine state, they have often been my inspiration and motivation.
There is much to love about Queensland: the land, the original country- and there is much to be in pain about…. The multiplicity of this experience is something I understand well as a mixed race brown girl that has grown up in a deeply racist country with a deeply racist history. At times I am fiercely emotional- hot with anger and cold with sadness, I am uneasy with the darkness heavy in the air in many of the regional and urban towns I’ve visited. At other times I feel so easy- so home- so healed in Queensland. The warmth of the people (First Nations and the generations of visitors) is vibrant and more real then anywhere else I’ve lived in the country. What can I say – it’s a complex relationship.