From within the hall of Circus Ethiopia, the first circus organisation in the country, a group of 6 artists, still in their young age decided to venture out by themselves in search of better conditions to nurture and grow their love for circus. Fekat Circus traces its beginning to this moment – when young creatives from underprivileged background commit to their ambitions in circus arts. They first obtained support from an international NGO based in Addis. While rehearsing in the space provided by the NGO, the founders of Fekat Circus decided to involve and impart their skills to other youngsters from the neighbourhood. The Fekat Circus informal school came about by opening its doors to the surrounding community.
In 2008, while Fekat is still in its infant stage, its members planed a trip to Kenya where they visited Sarakasi Trust, an organisation dedicated to empowerment through cultivation of culture. This trip was a turning point for Fekat Circus artists who were previously exposed to the limited option of touring abroad. It was an eye-opening experience of what can be done with circus in an African context.
Fuelled by the inspirational trip, the troupe returned to Addis with a renewed vigour to transform their love for circus into activities with positive social impact. The Smile Medicine was immediately started at the largest referral hospital in Ethiopia and it has continued to function till date. Other outreach programmes in prison, orphanages, street children projects, and private schools were also initiated complimented with constant capacity building activities for the young team.
The central location in Addis, which is the political capital of Africa, hosting many foreign residents, created opportunities for new income generating activities to arise. Fekat Circus began as a social circus and slowly became a performing space and one of the few private cultural venues in the city.
Additional value is brought to Fekat through the exchange programmes and international tours, the latter which started in 2010 and have been happening every year since. While travelling, the troupe’s vision grew; they started probing at the circus scene in Ethiopia, which has been repeating the same acts and shows for over 30 years. Fekat Circus took the challenge of moulding a contemporary identity for Ethiopian circus. This challenge was compounded with traditional and religious society that clings to its customary ways and the risk of falling into a stereotypically African style, which is easily sold on the market. In 2015, Fekat Circus conceived the first African Circus Arts Festival as a means to reinvent the image of circus in Ethiopia while stimulating the development of the circus sector in Africa. The first edition of the Festival was driven by the idea to gather African circus artists and strengthen their belief in what they do.
In the second edition, African Circus Arts Festival, as one of the emerging continental arts and cultural events, sets on a path to becoming a taste maker for the latest African circus productions. Aimed at looking outwards and forwards: becoming open and accessible to the global contemporary audience while meeting the challenges of a rapidly changing market, this edition was an event to gauge the current status of circus arts in Africa and anticipate/shape its future course.