Superposition is an electric one-woman show written and performed by Chanje Kunda, a Mancunian-Zambian poet and playwright, who stirringly touches themes such as female sexuality, quantum physics, spirituality, heart-breaking motherhood and science. Female eroticism, science and divinity seem to be an odd combination, but Kunda blends them naturally, while she humorously and poetically explains how science works – through pole-dancing.
In an interview for Afridiziak, she talked about her fascination for books that approached subjects such as the laws of attraction, books which, theoretically, claimed to teach people how to create the lives of their dreams. She didn’t find this genuine, so she wanted to understand how the laws of attraction truly functioned and, after her lover left her and their son, she became overcome with the desire to know what pulled people together and what pulled them apart. Was it gravity?
Thus, she chose to talk to a physicist, to a philosopher, to her son, and she also attended a lap dancing course – because she believed that each would provide their own take on this subject.
From what she gathered, she created Superposition, a weirdly informational and accessible piece of art. I myself have never been familiar to anything related to quantum physics, but I was captivated, sinking in Kunda’s words. She delivers information through fluid dance moves, through amusing anecdotes about her son, through raw stories about her life. Science becomes erotic, digestible. For instance, Superposition is a term in physics: a principle which describes the movement of waves. Examples of such waves are light, sound, water waves or earthquake waves. Basically, waves are omnipresent: they’re everywhere, anywhere and at any time. They intertwine and add together, without changing their substance. Chanje Kunda herself explains the peculiar name of her show, stating that her performance is exploring how our bodies are in superposition, imitating the waves and mirroring the universe through a constellation of particles shimmering within us.
Superposition paints the modern woman’s pain. Left by her lover, Kunda becomes a strong, independent mother, who refuses to remain trapped in a life cycle of laundry-rinse-repeat. She realizes that she doesn’t have to spend the rest of her life dreaming about her soulmate – she can dream about the laws of the universe instead. She doesn’t leave her nine-to-five job, which breaks her heart, because she must be financially stable for the sake of her son. At the same time, she is feeding her child’s thirst for knowledge, teaching him about the sun, about stars and galaxies. And, most importantly, she teaches herself self-love.
With Superposition, Chanje Kunda joins the long list of empowering feminist poets and activists, such as Warsan Shire, Eileen Myles, Jenny Zhang, Suheir Hammad and Andrea Gibson, who write about pain, loss, lust, the struggles of immigration, the destruction and reconstruction of the female body. As Rupi Kaur and other imposing women before her, she fearlessly takes her body back. Kunda reclaims her sexuality, which she sees as divine and celestial. She evokes body positivity: she displays, accepts and takes ownership of her body. She fully embraces herself: “We should enjoy and celebrate our womanhood, our sensuality and our dreams. It is important to take back ownership of every aspect of ourselves, including our erotic selves, which is a part of our divinity.”
Kunda’s poetry flows through her speech through dreamy phrases such as ‘constellations of dandelion dreams’, ‘the young blue galaxy of giving birth’, ‘the black hole of heartbreak’ and ‘the crated moon of hope’. Her words stick together beautifully as a whole. To me, she is a combination of Akua Naru’s hazy music and of Warsan Shire’s soulful, heart-breaking poetry. Just as Warsan Shire, she recalls her roots, her spirit and her culture, which she summons through her work. I’d say that her show is merging Warsan Shire’s mystique and psychonaut Terence McKenna’s true hallucinations, who, just as Kunda, believed in the sacredness of the human body.
Kunda’s bold performance becomes poignant in a time when conversations about female eroticism, sexual assault and harassment (the #metoo movement, for example) are front page-news. In her show, she alludes to the “Madonna-Whore” complex, an archetype first used by Sigmund Freud which dominates, to this day, mentalities in our society. It refers to the stereotyping of women: traits considered valuable in women (kindness, mother instincts, gentleness, sensitivity, nurturing instincts) are seen incompatible with sex drive. Women are either pure or promiscuous, incapable of being sexual beings in the way men are.
Therefore, artists like Chanje Kunda are extremely important, because, through their work, they break boundaries. By paralleling science with pole dancing, a condemned expression of female sexuality, Kunda wittingly accentuates that sexuality in women is not and should never be a shameful act. She fights the taboo by underlining the beauty of the female body and the naturality of eroticism.
Finally, when asked what she wanted the audiences to take away from her show, Chanje Kunda responded she hoped her audiences would grasp this concept:
You cannot say to a wave in the ocean, you are not the ocean, you are just a a wave. Collectively, each wave makes up the ocean. Each wave is the ocean. similarly, each one of us is the universe. The universe is a term for all that is. Don’t ask the universe, you are universe, as much as the ocean of stars in our galaxy. Our bodies are celestial bodies.