CAPTION: (above) Three of Zip Zap Circus School’s top performers entertain crowds with their phenomenal juggling skills at the various performances. From left to right: Masixole Mbambatho, Lizo James and Mosuli Ntshonga. [Photo credit: Zip Zap Circus School]

Being part of a circus such as Zip Zap provides performers with many opportunities to develop skills that express their unique artistic talents in an entertaining and fun way while in the company of fellow performers. “A circus is a social activity that brings people from diverse backgrounds together. It provides performers with the opportunity to learn from fellow performers and it is very inclusive, anyone can join the circus,” says Laurence Estève, co-founder and CEO of Zip Zap Circus School. As South Africans celebrate Heritage month in September, Estève elaborates on how a circus contributes towards building the heritage of a country such as South Africa, “Various art forms and styles are welcomed at a circus: from dancing to storytelling, stick fighting to climbing, and gumboot dancing to jumping. Many of these art forms are part of South African cultures, the cultures of our performers. This makes the entire experience so much more enriching.”

Zip Zap was founded in 1992 with the intention to bring about social good and positive change through the medium of circus arts. Since then, two more social circus schools have been founded by two of Zip Zap’s very own graduates. The Sisonke Social Circus was founded in 2011 when community members felt a need to integrate children of the diverse communities in and around Stellenbosch and the Boland area. “Sisonke” is an isiXhosa word meaning “we are together”. The Tim Megaw circus in Cologne, Germany was founded in 2009. “The beauty of a social circus is how it brings diverse people together and transforms them into one family. A circus is about teamwork and it teaches life lessons while building trust, humility and dedication. It is also about having fun and working together to put on the best show possible,” explains Estève.

Masixole Mbambatho showcasing his juggling skills at Zip Zap Circus School.

Two of Zip Zap’s top performers have each changed their destinies by choosing to become involved with Zip Zap at a young age. “I moved from the Eastern Cape to Khayelitsha in Cape Town in 1998, where I attended school. During a performance in Khayelitsha on World Aids Day in 2006, I was amazed by the Zip Zap performers and I immediately wanted to join them,” says Masixole Mbambatho, one of Zip Zap’s best jugglers. Mbambatho became involved with Ibhongolwethu, Zip Zap’s outreach programme in Khayelitsha and on a weekly basis, he learned how to do circus acts. From 2008 onwards, he became actively involved with Zip Zap and after matriculating in 2011, he joined the Dare 2 Dream programme and started training as a professional juggler. “Today I am teaching other children circus skills and I love what I am doing, the team is really great! I enjoy travelling for shows and during my time with Zip Zap, I have visited Germany, Spain and Wales. Zip Zap has provided me with a new future as some of my friends, who did well at school, are still at home without work. I am able to impact other children’s lives now too and it feels great,” he continues.

“What I love about the circus is how we all look after each other like a true family, no matter where you come from or what your background is. For me it is very uplifting to be a part of Zip Zap,” concludes Mbambatho.

Lizo James joined Zip Zap when he was eleven years old, and in that same year he performed in his first international show in Denmark. “Thanks to my involvement with Zip Zap, I have had the incredible opportunity to work with international circuses such as Cirque Phénix in France and Cirquons Flex in Reunion Island. My years with Zip Zap have taught me the importance of being responsible, making the right choices and setting an example. Masixole used to be one of my students!” says James. “I want to encourage our youth to never stop believing and to work hard at achieving your dreams.” James is one of the leading performers in the La Pli I Donn show taking place on 21 September 2016 at the Zip Zap Circus Dome.

To make tax-deductible donations to Zip Zap, visit the website or contact 021 421 8622 or donate via Thundafund here. Find Zip Zap on Facebook and check out the Zip Zap YouTube channel here to find out more. Tickets for the La Pli I Donn show is available at Tickets cost R160 if purchased online and R180 if bought at the door. The show is taking place on Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 18:00 at Zip Zap Circus, Founders Garden, Jan Smuts Street, Cape Town.