Coco Solid

Jessica Hansell (also known as Coco Solid) is an artist, rapper, writer, actor, video director, zine-maker, illustrator and more. Expressing herself through many mediums, she aims to make visible perspectives which have been excluded from mainstream history and popular culture. In 2015 she stated: 

I just want a variety of stories to be told, I’m sick of getting the same old stories told to me over and over again. The same authoritative, white male perspective.

Coco Solid explores and challenges gender stereotypes and sets feminist issues alongside cultural identity. Her Māori, Pacific and German heritage is intertwined in her work, making for complex, edgy and innovative art, videos and music.

Coco demands visibility for alternative stories and points of view and is fighting for inclusion, equality and human rights on many fronts: 

It’s the 21st century, where [are] the women at, where [are] the brown people at, where [are] the different genders, different orientations, different class perspectives, different struggles? I’m sick of it. (Coco Solid, 2015)

Her documentary Heaven’s Gate has helped to make local transgender stories more visible. Created in 2014, it showcases the FAFSWAG Ball in South Auckland. A celebration of Polynesian fa’afafine (transgender) culture, the documentary provides insight into the ball, those who attend it, fashion and dance.

Another creative outlet is television, a medium in which Coco has worked as a writer, director and actor on shows such as Only in Aotearoa and the animated Aroha Bridge. The latter aimed to provide ‘a snapshot of the multicultural melting pot that is Aotearoa’. As well as being head writer and director, Coco wrote the music and voiced characters in the show.

Māori Television’s Brown Eye was an earlier success. The satirical current affairs show, recorded in 2015, featured Wahine Jones, an entertainment presenter created and performed by Coco Solid. The following video, typical of her work on Brown Eye, touches on a range of problematic issues:

In 2017 Coco Solid partnered with former Badd Energy band member Trixie Darko and the Spinoff to launch Equalise My Vocals, a campaign highlighting racism and sexism in the music industry. Excuses for the lack of diversity in the music industry don’t cut it, says Coco, who argues that it’s easy to find talented people from diverse backgrounds throughout New Zealand.

Coco Solid’s 2018 album Cokes includes many tracks created in collaboration with musicians from diverse backgrounds. The album is personal in tone and packed with content about race and gender. A song created in partnership with Tongan trans artist Queen Kapussi, ‘But That Voice Is Still There’, highlights some of the challenges both women have faced as artists. The high-energy but personal track recounts their experiences as they strive to no longer be co-opted, underestimated or misread.

Hear 'But That Voice Is Still There'

Coco Solid is focused on ‘speaking out on behalf of herself only’ on the issues she’s faced as a mana wahine in the digital age.

Further information

Interview about Cokes: https://thespinoff.co.nz/music/02-02-2018/they-didnt-disempower-us-after-all-coco-solid-drops-a-waitangi-day-mixtape/

RNZ National interview: https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/nat-music/audio/2018631477/coco-solid-us-being-able-to-tell-our-stories-is-something-we-have-to-fight-for-constantly

2011 launch of zine Philosoflygirl: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSKBh13c96c

Explore more stories about women's activism in New Zealand

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