September took an unexpected turn with a trip to Malawi to teach aerial to a group of trainees working for the charity Anno's Africa. It came about through a conversation with my friend and colleague Kate Jones of Cimera- a welsh community circus company who I have worked with many times. Kate was hugely supportive in the creation of my new show Howl this year, working officially as Welsh language support and costume designer/maker. Anyway, at some point it came up that some of Cimera were returning to Malawi to teach circus and costume making with Anno's Africa- a charity providing arts activities to underpriveledged children in Africa, and Kate invited me along too.
We were based in Mzuzu, in the north of Malawi, myself and Daisy Williams taught aerial to a group of trainees from the Malawi team, in an aerial intensive that took place in a tobacco auction house (it wasn't tobacco season at the time) and joined Kate, Alex, Lia, Bea and Andrew teaching stilts, juggling, slack line, hula hooping, unicycling, diablo and devilstick in the schools in Mzuzu. As well as costume and film making to some of the Malawian team- Emmanuel, James, Bilton and Hassan who work year round teaching drama, dance, song, circus and art.
The aerial trainees- Alinafe, Blessing, Foster, Mercy and Hassan took to aerial like ducks to water and worked incredibly hard to learn silks, trapeze, rope and hoop in the short time that we had. The project culminated in a celebration that involve children from Chipotula school showing off their ground based circus skills, the aerial trainees doing short aerial performances and Hassan and Mercy stilt walking in beautiful costumes made by Bilton and Kate, at Macondo camp, with the hope of attracting interest and investment in the project. It was a beautiful day and a great way to celebrate the end of our visit, The team gained many skills to pass on in the workshops and training they do in schools around Mzuzu. The hope is that they continue to work on their skills and eventually a circus centre will be opened in Malawi.
It was a wonderful and eye opening experience for me, and the positivity, willingness and commitment of the trainees and children really was humbling. I hope to get the opportunity to return to carry on teaching before too long. It was also a great priveledge to visit Malawi and to be immersed in a different culture even for a short time.
You can check out the work of Anno's Africa here: http://www.annosafrica.org.uk/