Sinking into the pillow
I escape into the arms of quantum mechanics
It takes me on a journey inside myself
Particle physics shows me what I am made of
It’s all to do with attraction
If an atom was a nightclub
The nucleus would be dancing
In the middle of the dance floor
There is a strong attraction
So the electron orbits the nucleus
getting to see it’s sexiness from all angles
And it can’t stop going round and round and…
(Chanje Kunda: Excerpt from Superposition)
This is an excerpt from Manchester based, Zambian born Chanje Kunda’s play Superposition. Superposition is an engaging one-woman show of discovery. It explores various issues of science and sensuality as it explores the real laws of attraction.
Chanje explains that her fascination with the laws of attraction was sparked after reading The Secret.
“After reading books like ‘The Secret’ which states how you can use laws of attraction to achieve your wildest dreams, I decided to research the real laws of attraction. So I interviewed particle physicists, professors in philosophy and my son. I also decided to attend a lap-dancing course as they would have different perspectives on the Laws of attraction. Then I made a show about that journey and what I found out,” Chanje reveals.
A poet and performance artist, Chanje has performed both nationally and internationally alongside some of the most acclaimed modern day poets such as Benjamin Zephaniah, and Linton Kwesi Johnson. Some of her prominent performances include features at the Royal Albert Hall London, Calabash Literature festival Jamaica as well as the Royal Exchange Theatre.
A writer since she was a child, Chanje drew inspiration from the likes of Maya Angelou and at the age of 16 she discovered the power of shared words.
“When I was a child, I liked keeping diaries. I thought it was fun. I just wrote for myself. When I was about 16 years old I was inspired by Maya Angelou’s poetry, especially Phenomenal Woman and Still I Rise. I was fascinated at how you could use writing to inspire and empower others. That’s where it all began,” she divulges.
Though she says she doesn’t really wake up in the night with a bolt of inspiration, Chanje divulges that she does write about her passions and that she still keeps a journal.
“Once I have an idea of something I want to explore creatively, I do research including reading books on the subject, and interviewing people who are also passionate and or knowledgeable about the subject. I then write lots and lots and lots of words about it and then I go back over it and try to craft it into something. Most of my work is editing down to get to the treasure buried beneath the mountain of words,” she says.
Chanje, like Maya Angelou draws her inspiration from her own life story and explores subjects to do with race, gender and empowerment.
“All my work is autobiographical. As I said, Maya Angelou was a great inspiration for me and her autobiographies such as ‘I know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ taught me that our own stories are important and valid. No one can tell our stories for us. I like exploring real life experiences,” Chanje details.
Chanje’s first play was called Blue Black Sister and was commissioned by the Royal Exchange Theatre. It was launched there but didn’t tour.
“I didn’t really receive any recognition for it. I decided I wasn’t going to do plays any more. It was a Theatre Arts Officer from Arts Council England called Leroy Philbrook who encouraged me to pursue my writing, which I reluctantly did. Then my next Play Amsterdam was internationally successful. I felt like ‘Praise God, it a Miracle’. It’s a great feeling,” she discloses.
She relates that one of her greatest challenges came when she wanted to have her play Amsterdam staged. Chanje was rejected by arts funders and with no savings the realisation that she would have to pay for a director, choreographer, sound designer, rehearsal space, the props and costumes and the set herself was overwhelming.
“I didn’t have any savings and was in debt. But I was determined to follow my passion. I applied for compensation for bank charges, which I received, I started a gardening business mowing lawns, I begged friends and family for money, whatever they could afford. I was able to pay everything and make the show. The show received award nominations and many prestigious performance invitations in the UK, the Netherlands and South Africa and Zimbabwe.”
She moved to Amsterdam with her son after falling in love in 2012 and turned her tale of love into an artistic masterpiece. Amsterdam has been described as a great tale of risk, as well as liberation which also shows the realities of parenthood.
The battle field of my emotions; Poppy seeds of self, lay dormant in the ground. But after a battle, they sprout and flourish. Rich red, beautiful flowers out of the ruin. And I am here before you now, Flowering.
(Excerpt from Amsterdam)
Chanje explains that one of the hardest things about writing is the length of time and the commitment it takes to follow something through from conception to actualization.
“You need to be determined, self motivated and persistent,” Chanje advises, “main obstacles in gaining wider recognition in this field are money, access to investment, gender, race, location… and parenting,” she adds.
She likes performance artists such as Marina Abromich, who does a lot of work in the United States, Lemn Sissay, who makes work about his own life story as a political act, as well as London based performance Duo called Project O.
In 2015, Chanje was chosen as one of the BBC Radio 3 The Verb New Voice winners. She expresses that it was a great experience to be recognized by the BBC.
“I am very proud to be Zambian and recognition from the BBC feels good. I’m not going to lie. When you are in the moment it just feels normal you know, but I recognise how privileged I am, a) to have Zambian genes and b) to have discovered my talent and for that talent to be recognised by institutions such as the BBC,” she quips.
In the run up the BBC had put a call out as they were looking for new writing talent. It was specifically for writers from the North of England as the UK tends to be very London-centric. Chanje sent them some examples of her writing as well as some ideas for things she could write for BBC radio. They selected her as an exceptional new talent and offered her the Award.
Chanje reveals that she has a great support system especially within the theatre industry in Manchester where she lives.
“They all support my work and invest in it, which is really great. I have a producer who books my tours and the British Council arranges my international performances. I am truly blessed. My family are also very supportive of me and proud of my achievements, which makes a massive difference.”
She describes having her son as her greatest achievement.
“I think being a parent is the most challenging thing because you have to be a spiritual guide, you have be a provider, you have to cook, you have to encourage, inspire, discipline, love unconditionally, pray for them. Bringing up a child is sacred,” she remarks.
In her down time Chanje likes to read, dance, listen to music spend time with family and friends. She also loves traveling. She reveals that her favourite past time is daydreaming and that she still loves it.
“Being busy doing nothing is one of my favorite pass times. That is why I love trains and airplanes. You can just stare out of the window for hours without feeling guilty that you ought to be doing this or that,” she pronounces.
Chanje is a quirky creative soul who loves ice cream, tea AND coffee (do I have to be monogamous with beverages too?), and the season of Autumn which bears her birthday.