is an International Meta Clowness, performer and facilitator of ritual performance, clown and theatre.
Besides touring with various theatre companies and performing her One Woman Show,
Don’t Do it, Don't Do it, DO IT!,
Zuma runs retreats around the globe merging the worlds
of personal development, community, play and clown.
We caught up with her before she headed off to Catalonia to run a week long immersion into the worlds of clown, ritual, performance devising and more co-facilitated with Alana Bloom...
You describe yourself
as a Meta Clowness.
What does that mean to you?
Yes, I consider myself a Meta Clowness as I feel clown has developed over the years to become an umbrella term for an artistry that has expanded, contracted and so like every artistry has grown niche sub-categories all of which identify as clown but differ in objective, aesthetic etc. For example the objective of circus clown can often rely on the gag, theatre clown relies on play, the story and connection to an audience, roaming clown plays in the moment.
Today there are clowns with and without red noses, goofy hats and big shoes, clowns that don’t care about the gag and clowns who only care about the gag, there’s idiots, fools, jesters, jokers, comedians, players, goofs, and each has their own branch in the clown family tree. To me being a Meta Clowness clarifies my field. I’m the branch that’s a bit scraggly, with missing leaves and golden lichen, the delicate branch that comes out the awkward bum crack of the tree. My work is self-reflective- the art of looking inward, accepting all of the bits of ourselves, the bits we love, the bits we hate and playing with it all to a point where we realise just how ridiculous we are.
In my day to day
when I’ve introduced myself to strangers
as a clown,
a number of people have said:
“You don’t look like a clown”
to which I’ve replied:
“What does a clown look like?”
and almost always they smile and say:
"I dunno, a middle aged white man with krusty the clown hair and big shoes”...
...and I can completely understand where that association comes from.
I decided to play with the image of the word “clown” by adding “ess” to the end, I’m still assessing how that’s working out… Why call myself Zuma Puma*? - besides it making me smile every time people say my name (especially corporate business types).
I feel referring to myself as a Meta Clowness does the same. It either confuses the normals, pisses off the traditionals (which is always a healthy thing to do) or entices the alternatives to find out more about this niche sub-category of clown- the inner reflective world-
“The Meta Clown”
What is your perspective on being a female figure exploring comedy today?
It’s great to see the upsurge in female comics on the circuit.
I remember 10 years ago I was often the only female on the bill, not that this doesn’t happen any more it still does, it’s just that there are more nights devoted to female comics and diversity today than there have been. We’re still waiting for this diverse and equal playing ground to reflect into the mainstream and film culture, having said this- I’m hopeful that with the voices of today that we will be seeing more shifts in the next 10 years or so. I love seeing more females in comedy today and I feel it is influencing the world in such a positive way, we’re changing the ancient old story of the silenced woman, the hysteric, the witch.
We’re being seen and giving our world an opportunity to laugh with us as we make new waves for the young girls of tomorrow to share their voices, to be the change we wish to see in the world and I feel that this is an inspiring time in her-story for women.
Your one-woman show has been performed in the UK, US and Canada.
Most recently it was part of the Adelaide Fringe in Australia.
Tell us more about this show and the Fringe experience...
The show began as an exploration and research to develop a work that merges Clown and ritual performance through the Pochinko clown aesthetic (form). Exploring and expressing the many sides of my human nature; the insensitive and the sensitive, the competitive and the vulnerable, the drama queen and the celebrator of life. I wanted to write a show that really meant something, expressed a deep process of my life and after the #metoo movement I felt empowered and lifted to write a story about sexual trauma through clown.
It has been a big endeavor and I’m still developing and finding the show...the show becomes quite vulnerable in places which is a scary undertaking but one I felt necessary to explore.
Adelaide Fringe was a journey, like any festival is. You quickly learn: what really works and what doesn’t, where changes need to be made, and how it needs to be performed.
You’re performing every day so there is lots of opportunity to move and develop the work. I’m currently in an artists residency in Melbourne and am working on taking the show to the next level, in which I hope to do a work in progress at the Edinburgh Fringe, before I do my Canadian run of the show next year.
It’s exciting, it’s terrifying, it’s confronting, it’s all the things a big process should be.
If you’re curious about the show there is a write-up here.
Maybe see you at one of my upcoming shows!?
Who have been your influences in the clowning world?
I would have to say my top influences in the clowning world have been my core teachers:
I have trained with many people over the years
but these ones have made the most lasting impressions.
In terms of performance and direction I have been influenced by the work of
and the psychomagic worlds
of Alejandro Jodorowski films.
Tell us about Clownlife.
Clownlife is my work, my love, my life.
For as long as I have been clowning I have been influenced by the worlds of personal development, ritual, shamanism and therapeutic arts.
Clownlife is my endeavor to bridge the worlds, exploring the acceptance of self and sensitivity and the vulnerability work of clown with life and personal development. I use clown as a tool to develop the understanding of ourselves, how we are in the world, our relationship to self and to others, our patterns, short-coming’s, our human nature.
My workshops and residencies are for everyone curious about the worlds of clown whether you are someone who wants to laugh, take ownership of your flaws, celebrate your ridiculous nature or whether you’re a performer who wants to develop your repertoire or experience another form of clown facilitation.
In your Clownlife workshops, retreats and immersions you attempt to connect clown with mindful living. In general, how does this differ from other clown training that you have experienced?
There are many schools in clown as I mentioned above. The way in which I facilitate and what influences me most in my work with Clownlife is that it is a reflection of all of the training both in the work of clown and shamanic ritual practice.
For me clown is one of the most difficult performance art forms out there. There is a level of responsibility and ownership of oneself we experience in the work of clown and I agree that it is both challenging and confronting and it was only when I trained with Art Therapy teacher Paul Oertel that I could see the incredible breakthroughs an artist could have when they are held in safe space.
“Viva Negativa” is a coined term in clown that expresses a form of pedagogy (facilitation) which sends a player into a crisis, leaving them there to find their own way out. The insight being a very individual process, which is all well and good but what happens when you can’t find your way out and you are struggling with depression or anxiety”?
The schools of “Viva negativa” have worked wonders for many, especially for those with thick skin, high self esteem and determination. Personally, I have loved the insights of viva negativa. I feel this form of facilitation has reflected the challenges I have set for myself in life feeding my inner masochistic challenger. For example; when i did a vision quest and sat for 4 days alone with no food or water in the forrest or when I hitch-hiked across South America without money, trading songs for food and shelter or when I decided to live in a shelter in western Canada in the dead of winter to understand what it was like to be homeless. I have a real interest in intense process work, going into the tunnel to find the light. Especially in my 20’s I explored a lot of this side of myself; the head-strong, world explorer who takes great risks to live on the edge to understand what that’s like.
As I got older, now into my 30’s, I’ve gained more experiences, met more challenges, I discovered that there was a neglected side of me, the sensitive girl who has ignored her trauma, hid away, delicate and worried that the world will break her. I found that when my inner world was in pieces, “viva negativa” really didn’t serve me, it did the opposite- it crushed me, fed the trauma and sometimes I found myself unable to get out of bed for days after a training. This became devastating for me because I felt as though I could not persue my artistry, I went into the biggest crisis of my life. Which in a way was one of the greatest insights (or tunnels) I’ve gone through except this one took me years to pull myself out of. I came to a great realisation in one of Paul Oertels artistic Residencies- that art is not just for the headstrong, the big risk takers, it is for everyone and if anything there needs to be more places where we can be seen and expressed.
I feel pedagogy or the art of facilitation is exactly that, it’s an art in its own right and I started playing with different forms of facilitation exploring the balance between both “Viva Negativa” and safe space and I suppose this will be my life’s work. My mission is to create workshops that are challenging, confronting and safe, to work with the individual in their unique journey at the level that they are at. I bring the studies of my life and research of the shaman into the room, working with the energy that is present that day. I suppose my workshops and retreats are a reflection of the world I want to live in, where there is a focus on connection and community which are the keys to creating safe space. For me clown is not just about the performance it is about life, being open to experience the magic of the world, to accept ourselves and live in connection. The embodiment of Clownlife is mindful living. Clownlife differs from other clown training as I differ from other humans, perhaps there are some similar approaches or aesthetics but the heart and soul can’t ever be the same. My mission is to play with the ego, understand it, own it and have a place to play with the comedy of that conflict. As one begins to notice more of one’s flaws in life we then have an opportunity to work with these short coming’s, to understand them, where they come from and make the appropriate changes to influence our lives, connections and partnerships positively. I am also a Master Practitioner of Neuro-linguistic Programming which I occasionally drop in to the work if it’s appropriate. The most profound lessons that I have received from the art of clown have always reflected my life, who I am and how I am and that is what I facilitate.
Oh so many things… More shows, more workshops more residencies around the world
(UK, Canada, USA, Spain, Italy, Germany, Australia, Mexico and beyond).
Keep an eye out on my website www.clownlife.org, join my mailing list (through my website) and like 'Clownlife' on Facebook to stay in touch and hear about upcoming international workshops and residencies...
So, you can catch Zuma Puma
(*A.K.A Nelly Scott)
Don't Do It, Don’t Do it, DO IT!
No one likes to be told what to do, least of all Zuma Puma especially when facing the Good Girl’s Dilemma: DO IT or DON’T DO IT?... DO IT, Obviously!
Join the award winning Gaulier-Pochinko trained clown and her singing vagina on an Odyssey of Sexual Catastrophe.
"A uniquely eccentric show, unlike anything you've ever seen before."- Weekend Notes
"Full of humour and poignancy, there is never a dull moment... For a show you’ll still be talking about days later, this is the one to see." ****- Upside News
Directed by: Dan Lees
(Winner: Londons Mimetic Festival judges award)
Dramaturg & Producer: Gyllian Raby
(Multi Award winning dramaturg incl.
Alberta Culture award,
Canada Council Exploration award
and Chalmers New Play award, just to name a few).
Review Adelaide Fringe 2019
For more information about the show, dates
and Zuma's work head onto social media:
Facebook: Zuma Puma (Artist)