About The Homo Bonobo Project

The Homo Bonobo Project is a multimedia presentation by the globe-trotting Belgian primatologist Dr. Ghislaine Pussait, as played by her creator Shelly Mars, AKA the “after-hours Lily Tomlin.”

Inspired by the classic performance works of Jane Goodall, Al Gore, and the Pink Panther’s Inspector Clouseau, the show weaves themes of sexuality, love, and violence into a genuinely educational evening about our gentle jungle cousins, the bonobos.

Starting in 2006, Mars began an intensive study of the bonobo apes, the most endangered and least known of the Great Apes. The bonobos have been recently featured in pop culture and the press as “the make-love-not-war apes,” or “the hippie chimps,” because of their nonviolent nature, pansexuality, and matriarchal social structure. Graceful, charming, intelligent—and tragic—bonobos bear a striking resemblance to humans, and are our closest relatives, sharing 99.5% of our DNA.

Native to only one small area in the Congo, their numbers are being radically reduced by pressures from civil war, poachers, and deforestation. With a grant from the Arcus Foundation, Mars visited bonobo environments and study centers in the US and the Congo. She videotaped and connected with many important primatologists and field workers, and became increasingly fascinated with them and their urgently important work.

Dr. Pussait posits that bonobos are the queer Great Ape—a theory that the scientific establishment would rather overlook. Undaunted, she forges ahead, deep into subcultural jungles, discovering surprising parallels among LGBT and bonobo populations. Humorous, poignant, absurd, and thought-provoking, the Homo Bonobo Project’s underlying mission is one of education and consciousness-raising.

To book a Homo Bonobo Project lecture, contact:

347-804-6334 or ShellyMars@mac.com

See Brochure

Dr. Ghislaine Pussait

Dr. Ghislaine Pussait, a French primatologist and ethologist, focuses on wild bonobos (Pan paniscus) in Salonga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo. Currently a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, she has also taught as a visiting professor at the University of Paris, France, the University of Ghent, Belgium, and the New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology. Her research interests include question of bonobo culture, inter- and intra-sexual aggression, and same-sex genital rubbing.

Shelly Mars

Shelly Mars is an established solo performance artist based in Manhattan who has entertained and shocked audiences in the US and around the world for 20 years.

Mars’ solo shows include Bug Chasers (2005), Sex on Mars (2001), Whiplash: Tales of a Tomboy (1999), and Invasion from Mars (1997). Venues have included Abrons Theater (Performa 2009), PS 122, New York Theatre Workshop, The Kitchen, Dixon Place, and Highways Performance Space. Sex on Mars enjoyed a five-month run in Provincetown, MA in 2000. Her monologues have also been published in the book Creating Your Own Monologue.

As one of the first “drag kings” of the late 1980s, Mars appeared all over TV (Kids in the Hall, Phil Donahue, Montel Williams, Sally Jessy Raphael) and in many films, including Drop Dead Rock with Debbie Harry and Adam Ant, Jennie Livingston’s Who’s the Top?, the HBO special Drag Kings, and the independent documentary Venus Boyz.

Recently, Mars has been Artist in Residence at NYC’s Museum of Sex and has received grants from the New York State Council on the Arts (2010), the Arcus Foundation, the Gill Foundation, and the Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art.