A little while ago, we connected with Aleasha Chaunte, a highly talented artist from the Liverpool community with a background in Drama and Voice. After her experience of surviving cancer of the throat, which then affected the way she sings, she conceived a community art project entitled #thehandlessproject. Based on the story of The Handless Maiden, an old German folk tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, about a miller who is offered wealth by the devil if he agrees to give him what lies behind his mill (it turns out to be his daughter). To summarise, tragedy ensues and the girl loses her hands (only to have them restored in a fashion because she is pure of heart and undeserving of such a fate).
The unique thread of this project and the story focusing on people who survive tragedies of whatever nature. Given that Fallen Angels Dance Theatre is a recovery based charity, it made sense that there was an opportunity for us to collaborate.
Aleasha kindly took one of our classes at the LCI Studio in The Bluecoat, where she shared with us her experience in the realm of voice. She also facilitated various exercises, including massage, relaxation techniques and a beautiful hand-washing and hand-binding ritual she had conceived, using a bowl of rose water she had prepared with rose petals, glycerin and rose oil. It really was a sublime experience.
We had already had some exposure to Aleasha via Mary Prestige and Jo Blowers’ monthly Contact Improvisation class and “jam” at the Bluecoat, another example of how the creative community here “cross pollenates” as it were, opening further doors and opportunities.
Off the back of this liaison, I had the privilege of lending my expertise in the realm of fashion makeup and print media, assisting her by doing her makeup and taking photographs which I then edited for #thehandlessproject. I have always been fascinated by visual communication, having a very visually-oriented creative mind myself. I knew I wanted to present Aleasha in a powerful fashion, after all, this is a project about survival rather than tragedy. As such, I looked to strong black women in popular culture such as the supermodel Iman and singer and actress Grace Jones. Grace in particular is something of an enduring icon, having collaborated with some the most inspirational artists of our times, including Andy Warhol and most notably the graphic designer Jean-Paul Goude, who created some of her most memorable images.
It is worth noting, that part of Aleasha’s research for her project brought to her attention “Kintsugi”, the Japanese art of embracing damage (specifically relating to ceramics, where broken pieces of pottery are mended with gold). We re-interpreted this by painting the scar on her throat gold, using MAC gold pigment and mixing fluid.
There is much truth to the old adage that “a picture speaks a thousand words”.