The doctor heals the world through the face mask, the musician through the microphone, the teacher through the book, a clown can do the same through his red nose. I used to follow Clowns Without Borders by reading their blogs and some of their articles online and thought to myself “hmmm that’s amazing”. The idea of me being part of this mammoth and amazing task of taking amazing quality work to places where it’s needed most sounded too impossible for me I have always had an interest in a type of artistic work that can be part of life, not away from it, the kind of art that does not only reflect the social ills of society but can also be used as relief and somehow impact social change.
When Jayne Batzofin, the artistic director sent me an email to check my availability for the North West schools tour, I was both shocked and excited; but at the same time worried about finding that clown. I felt my experience of writing and acting in children’s theatre was not what they needed, but as soon as I remembered that trusting the process was the best thing to do I began to relax, in five days of creating “Skakwata” our 40 minute presentation aimed at children and teens about establishing a relationships between children and guardians and giving children a chance to be children again.
The North West is a mineral rich province of South Africa, a very beautiful landscape punctuated by mining and farming communities where there is acute poverty, crime, unemployment and many other problems the most unfortunate beneficiaries of these problems are children and young people. Our partners for the tour, CHILDLINE, took us to the first township Ikageng, of course the primary school was great as I had imagined, but the high school was even greater because when one of our partners alerted us that the school was identified as one of the most troublesome, I could sense the nervousness of the team as we were setting up. Nothing is impossible when you put, Sibusiso our veteran clown, Xolani our skilled musical director, Toni our amazing aerialist and myself in a team. Our performance turned from mockery to teenagers really laughing, they were shocked by the comedy but most importantly they could identify with the moments, we had managed to let those children who were viewed as dangerous – be children, my heart was filled with faith in what we do and love for this future generation. Our presentation is always followed by a brief workshop by CHILDLINE, giving useful information about abuse and other issues such as bullying. Being a township dweller myself, I know and I have seen the effects of poverty on children and young people. The first week was a great success we travelled Potchefstroom, our show ever evolving adjusting to the audience but constant laughter is an amazing thing to experience. Now we have moved to Mafikeng it’s our third day here I am inspired by the impact of this tour. This tour is a great example of how different professions can rally together to make the life of a child better, if teachers, social workers and artist (in this case clowns) can reach more than 10 000 kids in one week of course with the help of funders such as the National Lotteries Commission, who are leading in showing what big business can do in our communities. If I had one word to describe the whole experience it would be ADVENTURE!!!
– Sizwe Vilakazi