Written by: Lorraine Tanner
The first African Circus Arts Festival rolls into Addis Ababa during the last weekend of November. It’s a unique opportunity to catch modern and authentic pan-African performing arts, as the festival is bringing together eight circuses from seven countries representing all four corners of the continent. The free event is held at the newly opened Oromo Cultural Centre.
The aim of the festival is to stimulate interest and dialogue in modern perfoming arts circus and to develop a market for this kind of entertainment in Africa. Each troupe will perform twice and the festival will also showcase musicians and handicrafts from the region. The participating circuses all work in the realm of social circus, meaning that they run development and up-liftment programmes for ‘at risk’ and marginalised youth, alongside professional training programmes and touring shows.
The festival is hosted by the capital’s own Fekat (meaning ‘blossoming’ in Amharic) Circus, whose workshops reach children and young people in orphanages, prison, hospital, and those on the street on a daily basis and has done for over 10 years.
Joining Fekat are compatriots, Circus Debre Berhan, as well as their neighbours – Saraskasi Trust and Slum Drummers from Kenya, and Circus Zambia. Visiting from north of the Sahara, Red Tomato is a clowning project that was founded in Cairo in 2011. Their programmes involve training and casting refugees alongside Egyptian actors in plays that connect communities.
Both Sencirk of Sengal and ActionArte from South Africa run programmes for ‘at risk’ and disadvantaged youth, involving life skills and exhilarating physical feats. ActionArte, the youngest troupe at the festival, blends circus performance with videography to convey the local context of their beneficiaries and young professional performers on the Cape Flats.
Over ten years, L’Alea des Possibles, hailing from across the water in Madagascar, has built a multicultural troupe to enhance and enrich the arts through diversity in the capital, Antananarivo. They tour the Indian Ocean region and participate in a variety of cultural exchanges.
The First African Arts Circus Festival runs from 27-29 November in Addis Ababa at the Oromo Cultural Centre. For programme details and more information check out www.africancircusfestival.com.