addington.jpgMonday, 20th September – The Clowns Begin Their Journey

Wakey! Wakey! It is a beautiful spring day in KwaZulu-Natal. Birds are singing and the sun is shining. 7 AM is meeting time at the backpackers where our out-of-town artists are staying. So bright and early, I meet the rest of the core staff – Nadia Maria Caldeira, Sibusiso Khambule, Bongekile Mabuya, Sipho Mdletshe, Sussie Mjwara, Sabee Shozi, John Thomo, and Sibongile Tsoanyane. Because we are not familiar with directions, we have to meet our partner from Women and Men Against Child Abuse (WMACA), Phumlani at Gateway. He is our human GPS! The energy among the clowns is amazing. Everyone is singing and making jokes along the way. We can’t wait to get started with the actual show.

The show at our first school in Waterloo is a great one. Since we have performed here twice before today, the teachers seem to be aware of what is needed to se up and help us out. We are ready to kick start the show as the beautiful eager eyes stare at us with curiousity burning bright. The clowns have arrived. Nose on!

Akhi! Oyi! Akhi! Oyi! Akhi! Akhi! Akhi! Oyi! Oyi! Oyi! As we enter chanting, “Ajukujah” laughter erupts and fingers start pointing. We haven’t done much besides entering on stage and the atmosphere has already become more joyous with laughter and chit-chat among the learners. Even the teachers are in stitches with laughter. It is then that I remember that clowns are not only for children.

“When I grow up…” is our first routine and a hit as the clowns share with their audience their life dreams. I even heard one audience member say to Sibusiso, “You are a guy and you want to be a nurse?” Right then and there I knew these kids were going to be discussing what they saw in the show when it is over. After bringing laughter and joy to their lives, our second objective is to open their minds to other possibilities in terms of gender, HIV/AIDS, and violence. We seem to be on the right track!

“Taxi!” Everyone loves the taxi routine – wherever we perform it. The shock in their eyes as they journey Sipho and Sabee in the taxi picking up first John Major, then myself (Ms. Diva), then Nabia (Nadia), then Nurse Seesaw (Sibusiso), then Banana Bell (Annabel), and, Umgaga (Sibongile) finishing with an audience volunteer bouncing on the Sbo’s back. The beauty about this routine is that everyone identifies with it as part of their own lives. The taxi is a popular mode of transport in South Africa. All is so much fun until Bossy (Bongekile) comes on stage and demands for our papers. And off we are into a new routine!

Seeing the audience come alive during the show was priceless. Every step the clowns took, the audience was there with us sharing their laughter and applause. The feedback from the teachers and the students was great. They felt that the show was short and sweet. “Laughter is a healer of the soul so we must laugh as much as we can for a healthy soul breeds a healthy body,” one teacher said to everyone. Everyone was asking questions about the show afterwards and they all wanted to know when we were going to come back. We all leave with big smiles knowing that there are 10 more shows to go!

Thumbs out! Bums back! Ajukujah!

– Sussie Mjwara