Updated: Friday, 6th December 2019 @ 8:37pm

'I'm tired of pretending': MM chats to performance artist Chanje Kunda as show Plant Fetish opens at HOME

'I'm tired of pretending': MM chats to performance artist Chanje Kunda as show Plant Fetish opens at HOME

| By Josh Poyser

Plants, PTSD and porn stars are just three of the subjects of performance artist Chanje Kunda’s new show at HOME, Manchester.

These three topics might seem unrelated, but this is an artist who in her last show, Superposition, used science, spirituality and stripping to explore female sensuality and a ‘woman’s place’ in the universe.

She tells MM: “The universe is everything. We are the universe. You can point to a wave in the ocean, but it is still the ocean. We are the universe manifesting and becoming self-aware.”

In Plant Fetish, Chanje uses science to look at the mental health benefits of plants. Chanje had been suffering with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). She talks throughout the show about her therapist and the therapy she is still undergoing.

It is incredibly brave for someone to bare so much of themselves into their work, especially a live performance.

Explaining her motivation, she says: “I am inspired by Maya Angelou and her autobiographical works. And I’m tired of pretending. I want the work I do to be authentic.”

At times in the show it feels as though Chanje is the therapist and the audience is the patient on the couch, such is the knowledge that she has acquired about therapy and mental health.

After her second performance of the show at The Arc in Stockton, a lady from the audience even asked Chanje directly for advice on going ahead with a form of therapy which her GP had recommended to her.

The show deserves credit just for raising the awareness of mental health and trying to get rid of the stigma attached to it. She explains: “People are ashamed to talk about mental health. But we should be able to talk about it like we would a physical disease. I want to let people know it’s OK to talk about this stuff.”

It’s fair to say anyone who sees the show will leave with a better awareness and understanding of mental health issues and the challenges of living beyond trauma.

The show takes you on a journey with Chanje, through the ups and downs and coming full circle. Finding the true meaning of happiness, joy and what’s valuable in life. What is that?

“Happiness comes from finding what brings joy to your life,” she reveals. “It’s not about chasing money or how many cars you’ve got. You wouldn’t ask a star how many cars it’s got, it’s a fucking star! We are all valuable, we are all gold.”

The show is full of metaphors, double entendres and words of wisdom. Throughout the show there are references to Alice Walker, Maya Angelou and Yogis. Chanje has accumulated knowledge and wisdom not just through these readings, but through real life experience as well.

Chanje spent her early childhood in a Zambian village, with a brief spell in the US before moving to Manchester at the age of seven. She has been developing her work in theatre for over a decade, initially as a performance poet within the spoken word scene in Manchester.

Her first solo work was a cross art collaboration with digital media and photography, Blue Black Sister. The next production was developed through the publication of her first full length poetry collection, Amsterdam, which is based on her experience of visiting the city on holiday and falling in love with the city and a man.

In Plant Fetish, Chanje has superbly managed to fit an abundance of wisdom, therapy and storytelling into an hour show. Making it laugh out loud funny at the same time.

If she ever wanted to make a switch to be a stand up comedian, she could easily do so. The show is hilarious. The audience guffaws as Chanje recounts her Tinder dating history. The amount you will laugh during the show will provide just as much therapy as the plants.

This comedic touch lightens the show and makes it easier to talk about what is still seen by many as a taboo subject – mental health.

One of the lightest moments of the show, and perhaps the most memorable scene, is when Chanje treats her plants to a striptease to try and seduce them.

As far as I know, nobody has done any research on the benefits of giving plants a lap dance, but science has shown that plants can reduce stress levels and boost your mood.

Women in Mexico have a gone a step further and are marrying trees to protect them. Chanje points out: “Trees are tall, do great things for the planet, and are renowned for their wood.”

This is a stand up show, where the performer is sat down, ensconced on her sofa with a glass of white wine and surround by plants. Take a leaf out of Chanje Kunda’s book, buy some plants and join her.

*Plant Fetish is showing at HOME from Wednesday, November 27 to Saturday, November 30 November. You can buy tickets HERE.