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Clowns Without Borders: Helping kids in crisis to just be kids again

Paula Luckhoff

Suzan Eriksson (CWB SA) talks about using laughter and play to help the children and communities who need it most.“Our motto is Children Being Children again”

The non-profit Clowns Without Borders South Africa (CWB SA) is part of a global network providing emotional relief for kids in crisis through laughter and play. They like to call what they do “humanitarian clowning” or “humanitarian theatre” says Suzan Eriksson (co-director of CWB SA).

The local chapter brings in professional clowns as well as other performers like musicians and dancers, from all over South Africa. It also partners with other NGOs.

When Clowns Without Borders does work in other countries on the continent, it always tries to collaborate with local artists.

We put together performances but also workshops around play, to work closely with children who are vulnerable or who have maybe experienced some kind of trauma. We have a huge network of artists not just based here in our wonderful country, but also around the continent… We often work with a partner who will bring us in to either raise awareness maybe or provide some kind of psycho-social support. – Suzan Eriksson, Co-director – Clowns Without Borders SA

What is it about the humour and the pathos of clowning that unlocks a sense of freedom in children?

There’s the ridiculousness of seeing adults being silly and messing around… We try not to use words so much – a lot of it is physical theatre. That also leaves some space for children to interpret that in different ways. It’s not didactic; it’s not telling you how to think. – Suzan Eriksson.

The Covid-19 pandemic’s helped the organisation and its broad network to become more innovative, she says.

We’ve been using technology and making videos and audio recordings and thinking of other ways of working… also with training.


You can find more info on the website or email Eriksson at to find out about partnering with CWBSA.

Originally published by CapeTalk