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Jane Constance: Why not?

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Visually impaired, the young Mauritian singer and Unesco ambassador challenges herself as well as others. 

She strolls along the beach where the foamy waves come and lap the sand. Her silhouette is slender, her step cautious. Her balance is fragile. But nothing can take away her huge smile when the wave – expected, yet always a surprise – comes splashing at her legs. From time to time she kneels down to caress the water’s surface.  

 

Why hide?

Jane is the only daughter of Françoise and Tony. She was born on 16 September 2000. Her mother is a primary school teacher. Her father created a factory making model, and plays the piano. “When my parents learnt that I was born blind, they wanted to see that I was capable of doing things rather than focusing on my disability. I began to sing when I was five, and started to learn the piano at seven. Although I soon understood that I was different, and although I felt that ‘normal’ people were sometimes embarrassed or even anxious, I have never wanted to live cloistered away or in hiding. Instead of saying ‘Why me?’ I said, ‘Why not?’” says Jane in her high, clear voice.

After completing her primary education in a special-needs school, Jane went to high school, where she is taking her baccalaureate this year. “It’s important for me not to feel excluded, and to communicate with others. I go out to meet them, I like to listen to them, I’m very out-going. People are often afraid of differences and it’s up to me to reassure them. By accepting myself, I’m also letting others get closer to me,” she says with a smile.

 

A tangible dream

 

“Music helped me understand that my disability would not be an obstacle.”
 

Her voice brought her into the limelight. “When I was eight, I began to give small concerts in Mauritius. I loved it! It felt good to be congratulated. Of course I couldn’t see the audiences, but I heard their applause, and I felt their energy.” Her reward came in 2015 when, then aged 15, Jane won the final of the French TV programme “The Voice Kids”. “That’s when I knew I was in the right place. I felt that with my voice I could break down barriers and make people feel. Thanks to music, my disability might no longer be an obstacle – in fact quite the opposite. I have worked hard to achieve my dream. Today I think that it’s perhaps because I’m blind that I went that extra mile, and that I feel the need to excel.” Since then, Jane has released two albums. In the first one, À travers tes yeux (“Through your eyes”), now a gold disc, she wrote the song with a message, Change ton regard (“Change your vision”). “I composed this song to try and change the way others look at people with disabilities. To tell the world not to reject us.” But not until 2017, when Jane was appointed Unesco Artist for Peace, did she realise she had become an example for everyone with a disability. “Have faith in yourself, don’t give up, pursue your dreams, that’s the message I want to pass on.”

 

Seeing with the heart


 

The young girl is the island’s pride and joy – “It’s quite simply my paradise, she says. I feel the island’s gentleness. In other countries, whether I’m in France, Spain, England or India, where I have travelled, there is a fear that doesn’t exist here. I might go to Europe to study law, but even if I do, I shall always sing for my island.” Jane is rich in other ways. It is a privilege to be near her. “I don’t see the world with my eyes, I perceive it through sounds and scents. I recognize my island by its smells, the heat of its sun, by the sounds of the sea and the wind. And I hear its singsong language, Creole. I can’t see the people, but I know them from their voices. I can tell if they are sincere or not. I think that’s a quality. Physical appearance is often very important for people who can see. For me the important thing is what’s inside.”

 

By Virgine Luc
Photographs Nathalie Baetens