In a continent – and a country – where too often children are left stranded without basic needs and rights resulting in daily situations of insecurity and distrust between families and communities, it just might be that a circus can make a difference! After all, what is circus about? It’s about overcoming fear, it’s about trust, it’s based on non-verbal and verbal communication, it represents an ancient, multicultural international tradition and its purpose is to make people not only smile but also think.
Thus began the first newsletter produced by Hiccup Circus Uganda.
The incipit is the brainchild of a dental technician, which intentions are not only to restore and produce new smiles with dentures but also generate even more smiles with clowns and jugglers to attract attention and pass cross-cutting educational messages to a wide audience. To achieve this the first “worry” was to look for a place where organize the show production but we were lucky because we promptly find out the support of ISP in Africa, an Italian organization who gives us the possibility to use its backyard when offices were closed in the afternoons and during the weekends. As the founder does not belong to a circus family and don’t have even any abilities nor capacities in training people in circus art we relayed on the expertise of Rafiki Theatre; a company that is using innovative approaches and have a relevant knowledge and capabilities in training and mentor new troupe. Thanks to the Rafiki founder, Claus Schrowange, and his contacts in Kampala’s performing art industry in few weeks the Hiccup Circus Uganda cast was selected with 2 acrobats, 2 dancers, a clown, 3 actors and the ringmaster.
The production was finalized in three months and the premiere was staged at the ISP premises. For about 40 minutes, we performed a very contaminated circus show with juggling and acrobatic, a strange clown playing an electric guitar, a scaring man on stilts and it was there where we meet for the first time our friend Mr Kato, the positive role model giant puppet… the incorporated educational messages were about waste management and alcohol abuse besides two live songs with dedicated lyrics.
The first performance went well and was appreciated by the composite audience that we were able to attract and entertain so we take our courage to move outside and stage in a school. For budget reasons the first school to host our performance wasn’t far from our home base so we were able to save money and carry all the equipment in one pick up plus a car while the performers just walk there.
The school was the S. Barnabas Muyenga High, a day and boarding institution with about 500 students from pre-primary to secondary. It has a nice basketball pitch with plenty of space for all our equipment and can accommodate all the students under a nice shadow. With some adjustments, we replicated the first performance plus two post-show workshops about alcohol abuse and waste management. All the audience members have been loving it and appreciated with lots of smiles and laughter. The good feeling was also confirmed by the teaching staff that appraised the educational messages we proposed finding it relevant, useful and able to reach the target… the rest is history and for more please go on the outreach menu for additional information about our involvement with communities.
The circus will not save Africa but it can shape a better Uganda, help to make dialogue possible among generations, lowering barriers, informing and building trust among children. It can provide a model of shared loyalty that transcends common ways of teaching. It can demonstrate, to a wide audience, that what appears to be impossible is indeed possible… even knowledge.
None of these may be sufficient to bring about the requisite social change, but without them, no change is possible… particularly without your help.