Swinging to the rhythm of Africa

Cir­cus shows HIV is man­age­able, writes THANDANANI MHLANGA

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

THEY swung on the trapeze, they hung up­side down high in the air, they jug­gled and they som­er­saulted. HIV-pos­i­tive young­sters on an­tiretro­vi­ral treat­ment per­formed dar­ing cir­cus acts for the com­mu­nity of Khayelit­sha in or­der to raise aware­ness about HIV/Aids.

The show, Africa, One Tribe was per­formed at the Oliver Tambo Hall in Khayelit­sha on World Aids Day on Wed­nes­day.

The per­form­ers were part of the Cirque du Monde Ib­hon­gol­wethu Project which is run by Zip Zap Cir­cus School in con­junc­tion with Médecins Sans Fron­tières and con­sists of a se­ries of cir­cus arts work­shops spon­sored by Cirque du Soleil.

In­struc­tors from Zip Zap Cir­cus School travel to Khayelit­sha twice a week to teach ground-based cir­cus acts such as minitram­polin­ing, tum­bling and jug­gling to chil­dren liv­ing with HIV and re­ceiv­ing an­tiretro­vi­rals (ARVs). The pro­gramme cul­mi­nated in an an­nual per­for­mance on on Wed­nes­day.

“The idea at the start of the pro­gramme was to make it more ap­peal­ing for kids to go to clin­ics to get their ARVs. Tak­ing part in Zip Zap’s pro­gramme was a bonus, a mo­ti­vater,” said spokes­woman Nathalie Rosa Bucher.

In ad­di­tion to rais­ing aware­ness about HIV/Aids, the per­for­mance is de­signed to en­cour­age an at­ti­tude of ac­cep­tance and un­der­stand­ing in the com­mu­nity.

The 24 per­form­ers pre­pared for weeks to show off their skills in jug­gling, tum­bling, “lu­na­tricks” car­ried out on mini tram­po­lines, a com­edy act and gum­boot and other dances.

Chan­tal Stan­field, 7de Laan ac­tress, singer and dancer, was mas­ter of cer­e­monies.

Bucher said through ba­sic cir­cus skills, the fit­ness, co-or­di­na­tion and phys­i­cal strength of the chil­dren had greatly im­proved.

“The chil­dren have fur­ther­more, in a play­ful man­ner, learnt im­por­tant life skills like trust, team spirit, dis­ci­pline, re­spect. They have built friend­ships and gained a lot of self-con­fi­dence.”

Some of the Zip Zap chil­dren come from town­ships around Cape Town, in­clud­ing Khayelit­sha. Bucher said the re­sponse from com­mu­ni­ties had been “over­whelm­ing”, with peo­ple flock­ing to see the show.

“We also had a few other young artists who are part of Zip Zap’s A Sec­ond Chance pro­gramme, which teaches cir­cus skills to youth at risk, par­tic­i­pate in the show. All these chil­dren to­gether send a strong mes­sage to their au­di­ence and com­mu­nity: that HIV is man­age­able.”

Zip Zap hopes to grow the pro­gramme fur­ther and al­low more chil­dren liv­ing with HIV and tak­ing ARVs to ex­pe­ri­ence cir­cus magic and its ben­e­fits.

The cir­cus also plans to have a more per­ma­nent venue in Khayelit­sha so they can teach cir­cus skills more than twice a week and hire more in­struc­tors.

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