CORNER BROOK Tara Manuel is on mission to reclaim a word that often describes the female genitalia and turn it into something positive.
Helping her with that will be Big Pussy, a big pink cat puppet.
“Pussy has become a crude slang term for vagina, and I am taking that term back from the crude thinkers,” said Manuel, a producer/performer, writer and puppeteer from her home on Monday.
Manuel said the crude connotation of the word pussy has turned vagina into kind of an ugly word to describe something that is very beautiful, that gives life and that gives pleasure. “It’s not a dirty word. It’s a powerful life giving thing that we’re describing.”
Big Pussy may be slightly round and she may have an extra nipple, but Manuel said that’s OK. “She doesn’t want to change herself. Big Pussy is all about celebrating your femineity however it comes and about accepting yourself as you are.”
Manuel has been working with puppetry for some time now and has been touring a children’s show, “St. George and the Dragon,” to schools across the province since 2010 through Shadowy Souls, a production company she operates with her husband Michael Rigler. She has taken the show to 40 schools and with the help of a Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council grant will take it to seven or eight more this year.
But while her puppetry focus has been on working with children, she’s also interested in puppetry for adults.
“I’ve been building a puppet cabaret repertoire over the past year,” said Manuel.
It was a $2,600 grant from the council this past spring that resulted in the birth of Big Pussy, a big pink faux fur cat with a Filipino accent. Her creation was documented through social media.
“Initially when I conceived of it I was really interested in how puppets could relate to grownups.” She said in her mind she saw Big Pussy discussing really serious subjects with grownups.
But since completing the puppet and taking her out, Manuel’s discovered that children are also drawn to Big Pussy and that’s meant a of broadening of her character.
“I have this idea that Big Pussy is like a promotion pussy,” said Manuel. “So she’s out meeting everyone in the community. She wants to really foster a sense of positivity and gratitude. She’s a superhero for positive change.”
She’ll also be promoting the culture and artists of western Newfoundland and Manuel said you can expect Big Pussy to do quite a bit of “pussybombing” as she shows up at locations and events around the area.
All of that will be documented through “The Big Pussy Web Show.” A project with Rigler, the first episode was launched on YouTube on Monday, showing her visit to JL Gallery.
“Right now it’s just so thrilling to make something like that and to get it out there and get the reaction to her.” Manuel said that informs her and Rigler about her character and what she could be.
Future episodes will see Big Pussy visit the Wonderful Fine Market being held Saturday’s at the Royal Canadian Legion and Manuel said the sky’s the limit in where she’d like to take her.
“She’d love to sit down and have a chat with Premier (Kathy) Dunderdale, because she’s very interested in female power, and in positive female images, and people, and in exploring that and talking about it.”
Who is Big Pussy?
Big Pussy came to Newfoundland as a kitten aboard a shrimp boat from the Philippines. She survived the journey by eating shrimp and that is what accounts for her pink colour. She ended up at Dominion freezing and alone with the empty shrimp bags. That’s where her mommy Janet rescued and adopted her.
Follow Big Pussy on Twitter @bigpinkpussy