The objectives of the Circus Center are to
Ø Showcase and Celebrate Ethiopian Culture
Ø Provide training and employment opportunities for the youth of Ethiopia
Ø Highlight Ethiopia’s extraordinary circus artists
Our inspiration and the driving force behind Circus Center, Addis Ababa, is Sosina Wogayehu
One of Ethiopia’s greatest circus expatriates, Sosina Wogayehu, returned from Australia to Ethiopia in 2013 to establish circus training and producing facilities in Addis Ababa. She wished to build on Ethiopia’s emerging circus tradition, and share it with the world. She also wished to harness circus as a tool for empowerment, to engage young people, and support their educational development, providing them with a pathway out of poverty. Despite no permanent venue or ongoing funding, Sosina established GAMO Circus School (Gamo Circus FB ) and Ethio Circus Entertainment (Ethio Circus Entertainment ).
For over 15 years, she has successfully supported hundreds of young people to develop circus skills and continue their education. She has managed the training of a series of highly skilled circus artists, and supported them to perform in leading shows around the world, including Cirque Du Soleil and The 7 Fingers.
Her dream now is to establish a permanent home which can ensure the work of providing a pathway to successful careers for the young people of Ethiopia and a place to call home, the Circus Center, Addis Ababa.
A Safe, Permanent Place to call Home
Circus participants and artists in Ethiopia often train in poor conditions with inadequate safety apparatus, inadequate lighting, sub-standard equipment, the need to constantly pack up equipment in shared spaces, and sometimes poor sanitation. This situation is exacerbated by the frequent need to change location completely, making it impossible for some young people to continue participating.
Having no permanent home means there is no culturally and psychologically safe space, in which the young participants can confidently develop their voices as emerging artists, learn new skills, and create their own futures.
Without a permanent home, the participants cannot perform for the community, and even those who have gone on to have professional careers, have not been seen on stage by their family and friends, as there is no dedicated venue available in Ethiopia for circus performances.
Training and performing in poor conditions, without the safety and support of a permanent venue exposes the young artists to dangerous injuries and psychological stress. The Circus Center will provide the safe place they need to reach their full potential, and create their own futures.
The Circus Center, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
The Circus Center will be a state-of-the-art circus training facility, as well as a training center with a focus on the creative industries, and an 800 seat performance venue. Young people will have the opportunity to undertake vocational training for a wide range of skills, with a focus on the performing arts and allied training such as rigging, stage design, costume design, videography and production management.
The center will provide a regular program of circus performances featuring young circus artists from the training program. The performances will bring circus together with local culture in a celebration of Ethiopian spirit.
The center will take a multi-arts approach, and will also conduct performance and workshop programs in traditional costumes and dance, weaving and other cultural activities. Local multi-arts festivals will be a regular part of the programming. These celebrations of local culture will contribute to the potential for the Circus Center to attract international visitors.
The center will also have a focus on international cultural exchange, through the invitation of trainers and creators from throughout the world. In the longer term, the Circus Center will also allow for the invitation of international shows to Ethiopia to perform. This will inspire many young people, and build local audiences, and, with a mix of local and international programming, it will also attract international audiences.
Entoto, a major initiative of the government of Ethiopia
Entoto is a stunning cultural precinct in a large national park within easy access of the capital, Addis Ababa. The Circus Center has pre-approval for a circus village within Entoto which will feature a 200 seat performance venue based on a unique design concept which merges traditional Ethiopian architecture with the classic European cabaret venues known as Spiegeltents. It will also house a community training center. School children will be offered free workshops here too. This enterprise will be a critical first step, as well as providing an ongoing source of income and funding for the ongoing establishment of the Circus Center and National Circus School.
Ethiopia’s Extraordinary Circus Artists
Western-style circus came to Ethiopia in 1991, when Circus Ethiopia was established, but Ethiopia has a long history of acrobatics. The Gamo and and Wolayeta people have performed acrobatics at important celebrations and funerals as a mark of love and care for thousands of years. Today, Ethiopian circus artists travel and perform all over the globe, performing in the world’s leading contemporary and classical circuses, and winning international circus competitions. Over the last three decades, although there has been a focus on western-style acrobatics, a distinctive, Ethiopian circus style is beginning to emerge, and it is beginning to be strongly sought after by European and North American circus shows. The Circus Center will have the resources to nurture this, and present it to the world.
Ethiopia’s incredible indigenous culture is a great source of local pride. Ethiopia was never successfully colonised, and has developed a distinct, modern society built on ancient traditions. It has 83 different languages with up to 200 different dialects spoken. There are more than 80 traditional dances used to celebrate festivals, weddings and occasions of every kind, and in every corner of the country. Coffee is a major part of Ethiopian history and culture, dating back to the 14 century, when coffee was first discovered, according to legend, by a goat-herd. The Circus Center’s celebration of this culture will be central to all its activities. Culturally infused circus performances and multi-arts festivals will celebrate local culture, attracting local and international audiences. The Circus Center will be a place where the rest of the world can come to discover the beautiful culture of Ethiopia.
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