Queer poet, performance artist, and advocate Candy Royalle passed away on Saturday, after years of fighting ovarian cancer.
Her family announced her passing on Facebook, writing, “For those of you lucky enough to know Candy or see her perform, you would know that her strength, power, conviction, and all-encompassing love was beyond anything that can be described, so we will not try now.”
Soon becoming a fixture of the literary community, she performed at the Woodford Folk Festival, the Sydney Writers’ Festival, the Adelaide Fringe Festival, and the Tasmanian Poetry Festival.
A Lebanese-Palestinian Australian, Royalle’s award-winning work was often politically charged, and she advocated for better visibility of female artists of colour.
Friends and fans have flooded social media with tributes.
“A fierce, strong, outspoken, proud queer woman of colour, an artist and advocate. Rest in power Candy Royalle,” tweeted Queerstories creator Maeve Marsden.
“Absolutely gutted to hear about the passing of my dear friend Candy Royalle,” wrote poet and rapper Omar Musa.
“What a powerhouse of love, what a force of nature. She lived love, emanated love. Let us keep doing the same. Sending condolences to her fam and loved ones. Rest in power, poet warrior.”
Singer Mama Alto vowed to dedicate an upcoming performance to Royalle.
“Vale Candy Royalle. A devastating loss,” she posted.
In April, Royalle won the Red Room Poetry Fellowship, which would have seen her begin a residency this month. Her final performance on June 5 was with her band, the Freed Radicals, at Marrickville’s Red Rattler pub.
Friend Nicola Bailey said the show was “mind-blowing”.
“She delivered her performance with the same fierce and uplifting power than she did all of her shows,” said Bailey.
“There was a standing ovation and the crowd roared her name over and over again at the end; some people cried.”
In Royalle’s 2016 piece ‘Here, queer and Arabic’, she wrote of acceptance and belonging.
“I’ve always existed somewhere in between,” she wrote.
“Between cultures and colours, genders and sexuality. Between spiritual and atheist, creator and imitator.
“Belonging has always been a theoretical idea for me, not a sensation rooted firmly in any place or person, any community or group.”
She wrote of discovering queer Sydney as a teen, and the draw to visit Lebanon later in her life, where she met a lesbian couple in a country where homosexuality remains illegal.
“I thought about how I am surrounded by bold queer Arabic women—in Sydney, online, around Australia and the world who have also expressed their feelings of not belonging,” Royalle wrote.
“I thought about how lucky I was to have those connections, to be sisters with a global group who make the borderlands a place of belonging.
“It dawned on me that we occupy those fringes together. That we utilise things like art and activism to create a place of belonging within the margins and can revel in what it means to be an outsider who belongs.”
Royalle will be remembered as a versatile and provocative performer, a tireless activist, and a powerful voice in the Australian queer poetry scene.
Can’t stop thinking about what a huge loss @CandyRoyalle is. Of course personally. But her voice was so important. It’s just shattering.
— Bec Shaw (@Brocklesnitch) June 24, 2018
A fierce, strong, outspoken, proud queer woman of colour, an artist and advocate. Rest in Power Candy Royalle.
— Maeve Marsden (@maevemarsden) June 24, 2018
Absolutely gutted to hear about the passing of my dear friend Candy Royalle. What a powerhouse of love, what a force of nature. She lived love, emanated love. Let us keep doing the same. Sending condolences to her fam and loved ones. Rest in power, poet warrior. xx pic.twitter.com/jFQzGbsHfb
— Omar Musa (@obmmusic) June 25, 2018
Vale Candy Royalle. A devastating loss. I was ecstatic to be coming to Word in Hand’s November edition – now, I will dedicate that performance to you. X
— Mama Alto (@MamaAlto) June 24, 2018
Vale, Candy Royalle. Just saw the news that my friend, peer, and fellow queer Arab is no longer with us. She was such a fierce bright light. I'm devastated. Just devastated. Allah yerhama.
— Omar Sakr (@OmarjSakr) June 24, 2018
We’ve just been told Australian poet, performer and activist @CandyRoyalle has sadly passed away. Here she is being amazing at our show in 2016. She was loved by so many, her work will live and love on. Prayers and thoughts go out to her friends and family. pic.twitter.com/1B12OD3foB
— Out-Spoken (@OutSpokenLDN) June 24, 2018