Promoting the circus arts for social change.
Although Addis Ababa has hosted many Pan-African gatherings over the years, few have been as colorful or as lively as the first African Circus Arts Festival. Held in November 2015, this gathering of more than 100 circus performers featured clowns, acrobats, jugglers and musicians from every corner of the continent. With eight circus teams from seven African countries entertaining over 12,000 spectators, the event’s scale and vision reflected the ambitions of Fekat Circus, the local organizer that works to promote circus arts across Africa.
Since its founding in 2004, Fekat Circus has grown to become one of the continent’s leading circus troupes, performing extensively in Ethiopia as well as across Africa and Europe. However, what sets Fekat Circus apart is not just its performance excellence but also its commitment to using circus arts as a tool for social change. The troupe operates a circus school in Addis Ababa that has trained hundreds of young people, mostly from underprivileged backgrounds. The circus “has been a way through which these youth learn discipline,” says Fekat Circus board member Georgia Gunta. “While some will go on to make a profession out of it, others will be empowered to pursue their other passions.”
Fekat Circus also runs a project that brings specially trained performers into Black Lion Hospital to provide entertainment and therapeutic laughter to the children’s wards. “While medical doctors treat their physical bodies, we work on their mental and spiritual wellness,” says Dereje Dagne, president of Fekat Circus. The project has introduced several new child-friendly features to the hospital, including puppet shows, a group of “clown doctors” who make cheerful visits to bedridden patients, and a recreational space where children can play and learn alongside their parents.
While most of its support and performing revenues have come from abroad, the Fekat Circus team has great ambitions to raise the profile of circus arts within Ethiopia, creating a larger market for their performances and also making a positive social impact on the nation. With their focus on community service and cultural relevance, Fekat Circus is poised to put smiles on millions of young faces in the years to come.