Ethiopia welcomed some of the world’s finest circus performers to its second Africa Circus Arts Festival last week, the continent’s biggest celebration of circus culture.
The three-day festival, hosted under the horn of Africa’s first big top in Ethiopia’s military showground, saw hundreds of performers gathering for workshops, lessons, and elaborate performances attended by thousands of admirers from the country’s booming circus audience.
South Africa’s Zip Zap Circus School was at the event, which Brent van Rensburg, co-founder of Zip Zap, says was an extraordinary opportunity to bridge the gaps between South African circus students and their African neighbours.
“It was an amazing trip for us, our 39th international tour in 26 years, where we were able to take part with 11 African circus schools from around the continent in places like Morocco, and five circus school from Ethiopia alone.
“We flew the South African flag high, and they actually asked us to do a second show because the attendance was so high — we were a big hit, but it was just really nice for our children to be there in that environment.”
African Circus Arts Festival
Ethiopia has a huge circus audience, Van Rensburg says.
“There are seven circus schools in Ethiopia, and a lot of their kids go to China for training. After that, a lot of students go to tour around the world, so the circus culture in Ethiopia is far bigger than in South Africa, even though we started long before them.”
Some acts stood out for him.
“They do a lot of juggling, contortioning, and acrobatics, so that was amazing to see, because we specialise in acrobatics, so it’s different.
“There were a few acts that were absolutely unbelievable, the best of them were from Ethiopia, especially these two Risely performers. But just the Ethiopian experience, it’s one of the poorest countries on earth, but [the people] are friendly, and welcoming.
“At the end of the day, it’s about sharing cultures, and I think we are bridging the gaps,” Van Rensburg said.