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Ethiopia Holds Circus to Promote Performance Arts, African Culture

Members of Tinafan, an Guinean circus performing group, perform during the second edition of the African Circus Arts Festival in Addis Ababa, on March 2, 2018.
Members of Tinafan, an Guinean circus performing group, perform during the second edition of the African Circus Arts Festival in Addis Ababa, on March 2, 2018.

Ethiopia recently held the second edition of the African Circus Arts Festival, which saw 11 circus troupe artists from six African countries perform at the event.

Hundreds of Addis Ababa residents came out to see acrobats, hoopers, jugglers and contortionists among other acts on stage, when the circus came to town.

The three-day fair was organized by the country's Fekat circus group which wants to promote performance arts and provide opportunities for artists to showcase their talent in music, dance, acting as well as fashion and design.

Most performers were young people who come from difficult backgrounds. The circus encouraged them to use art to express their cultural heritage and fuse it with contemporary influences.

Other acts lined up included South Africa's Zip Zap circus group, which specializes in multidisciplinary shows.

The group said they were surprised by the reception they got from audiences in Addis Ababa.

"Beautiful beautiful, I really loved the energy of the audience as well. Even though I was dying and getting tired, they're the ones who kept me going and pushing. So I am really grateful to the fans as well," said Phelelani Ndarkrokra, a member of South Africa's Zip Zap circus group.

The Fekat circus group which showcased hoopers and jugglers among other performers say that despite its social, cultural and economic potential, the circus remains largely unrecognized in Africa, and has few job opportunities for artists.

Fekat which was formed in 2004 and runs a circus school in Addis wants to change that.

Organizers say the turnout this year from participating countries was encouraging and that the event has potential to grow even further.

"You know I used to meet African artists all around the world but not in Africa. So we thought why we don't organize something in Africa and we took this initiative from a long time ago," said Fekat co-founder Dereje Dagne.

Although a ticket for the show cost around 6 USD, which is a steep price for many Ethiopians, many were happy to attend the show.

"I believe strongly that we Africans can uniquely perform circus because we can show our vast culture through circus. It makes me extremely happy that Ethiopia could host such an event," said Abel Temesgen, a guest at the event.

"I think the circus could grow to a higher level if the public gave it the same attention as they do for other arts like theater and cinema. I wish people could get more awareness about circus," added another audience member, Mikias Mulugeta.

The circus also provided a platform for artists to exchange contacts and learn from each other, as well as attend workshops in different performance disciplines.

The event is sponsored by UNESCO and the European Union among other partners. Organizers say they plan to hold the circus annually in future.

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