Swinging to the rhythm of Africa
Circus shows HIV is manageable, writes THANDANANI MHLANGA
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.