Arab Dream Horse, Not (3) (Amy and Clown)
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Clarese our event coordinator followed us and informed that the kids were invited to follow us through the market to our show which was in front of a primary school on the other side of the market. This kid followed us the whole way. We stopped by almost every shop to greet everyone with huge smiles in return. There was a woman who came up to Erin and started dancing with her, she was so full of joy to see us she could not control her excitement.
Our crowd was huge 3x the size of our first parade and it was a lot harder to manipulate the crowd into a full circle when we reached the school. We hit a note with the kids and adults who came to watch. We even had local police step into our show to keep pushing the crowd back. It was not a problem for us. Our bits and acts with little rehearsal went off without a hitch.
Enough to make one adult freak out and walk away. For all I know, black magic is real in their culture. This audience was so great! At the end of the show we learned from the last one to pack up all the props and then great the kids afterwards. Everyone wanted to shake my hand and squeak my horn that I had in my pocket.
Their faces were priceless, I could see so much love and admiration for us in their eyes.
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One girl stood out to me. She was waring a beat up, dirty, torn, faded worn out Cinderella princess dress The one I see all the time working renaissance fairs Though it was a ragged cloth and not as pristine as I would normally see it I got real emotional realizing how this young girl wishes to love another life just as in the young girl in the story of Cinderella. All of them wish to leave this place some day and have an opportunity to make something of themselves but while they are here all they can do is dream of a better tomorrow. His dry sense of humor between conversations really balances out the seriousness and helps relieve ourselves in such a intense location.
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We first met in New York at the airport and we started our friendship real quick. With 12 hours on the plane we had enough time to share stories and connect mutual friends from around the globe. She will be teaching Comedia in Los Angeles when she returns from Africa. She is the strong female leader our group to hold it all together, her musical talents and quick wittedness helps move the show along quite smoothly.
I love her interactions with young females and hope they can be inspired by our lead female role in the show and take something home from it. We landed in Kakuma on Monday on Monday Aug 24 and it was not as hot as I expected it, there were a group of kids waiting on the other side of a barbed wire fence watching the new arrivals get off the plane.
This was the first time in 25 years that entertainers have been invited to Kakuma. The group was immediately greeted by one of our contacts that that we have corresponding with for the weeks before we arrived. At the landing strip there was an American that was teaching the locals about movie making and he asked me where I was from, we both made the connection that we had friends in common in the southern California area. He quickly gave me advice on the local scene, recommended I take a motorcycle taxi for 50 shillings and where I can find a good time on Saturday nights.
We jumped in a Toyota Land Cruiser with the Letters UN on the side, we told the driver we needed to find sim cards for our phones so we could get in touch with our friends and family while we were in town. Kakuma was not what I expected when we first arrived. The first Kakuma marketplace we encountered was not what we expected. They had such a diverse range of people bustling though it Somali, Arabic, Congolese, South Sudanese and the local indigenous tribesmen and women, the Turkana.
In the market we were approached by kids pointing to their bellies saying they they we hungry, most of them relentlessly asking for food or money. We quickly got what we needed from the market and drove to the UN compound to be shown our rooms.
Once we arrived we learned that we were provided a modern room apartment with AC, shower, and a demi kitchen and living space. We learned that not everyone gets to leave Kakuma though. Everyone in the camp wishes to be re-settled, though there are no real requirements for re-settlement. They tend to focus on the ones whose lives would be more difficult if they were to stay in Kakuma; those with physical or mental disabilities, single mothers, homosexuals, and those who have lived and seen traumatic life before they made it to the camp, and ones who fear that they would be prosecuted or bullied for beliefs.
We finally got to get down in clown in East Oakland! It was a great first step. I would love us to put so much more energy into local work. As the reach of CWB has expanded over the years, it has become necessary to those of us in the Bay Area to recognize the very real crisis of poverty, oppression, and violence playing out here at home. Tom explained that the dynamics in the food line can get tense, not only because everyone in the line is living in poverty, but the ethnic diversity in the line can lead to cultural and language divides, often exacerbating an already difficult situation.
As clowns, we were able to provide entertainment to the children and adults alike in the line. We felt very well received, very welcomed.
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We arrived in Diyarbakir on Monday. Diyarbakir is one of the largest cities in eastern Turkey, and is considered by many Kurds to be the capitol of Kurdistan. We are nearing the end of a week of performances in Kurdish villages and Syrian refugee camps.
Our first show was in Diyarbakir in a park outside a music conservatory that is one of our partner organizations here. Our main contact warned us that the audience might be small and subdued. Few people go out these days, he said, for fear of the rising tensions in town between the Turkish police and Kurdish activists. But he and his logistics team promised our safety, and we set out to do the best possible show for whatever number showed up.
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As we arrived, rehearsed, and set up to perform, more and more kids arrived. By show time there was already a good number of people in the park, curious about what would happen. We started the show with a parade. When we began playing music, singing, juggling, and dancing, children began ran and danced along. Their parents, we were later told, were meanwhile picking up their phones to call friends to come and see what was happening. The rowdy little crowd grew throughout the show. It took all the energy of the logistics team to prevent all of the children from jumping on stage en masse to perform with us.
The energy of the crown lifted some of the newer clowns in our group to a higher level of clowning. It was a promising Diyarbakir debut. In the following days, we have been traveling out of Diyarbakir to perform in more remote Kurdish villages. These tiny towns have never had shows come to them before. Many of the people we meet have never met anyone from Istanbul, let alone from outside of Turkey.
A small team of us the organizer from Istanbul, three Kurdish organizers from Diyarbakir, and me , walked into the village, leaving the rest of the group behind to rest. As we walked into the village and passed women and children in their yards they stared, but few smiled or returned my wave. First, we met with the village elders.
We found them, a group of men in kufi hats, drinking tea in the town square. They stood up, pulled more chairs over, and ordered more tea. They greeted and shook hands with the three men in our group.
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We all sipped as one of the male Kurdish organizers explained our project. The men listened for a while, then said that this town square was not a good place to do a show. They sent us to another part of town, where we went to sit and drink tea again, this time with the mayor and another group of men who greeted only the men in our party. After two sips of tea, we all stood up to go with the mayor to see a possible place to do the show. A man stopped me on the way to the door. He asked me in broken English if America was helping the Kurdish people. I found myself wishing I was wearing a red nose — people do not ask clowns political questions.
But I am here, and I want to help Kurdish people by doing a show. We had a parade and a show to do. And whatever my personal opinions about American foreign policy, I had no more to say about it. Although our simply being there, in a group of Kurdish, Turkish and American artists together, is a political statement in itself, part of the power of a clown show in Turkey is that it is not political. So many elements of life are political there, from the language one speaks to the clothing one wears to the street one lives on.
In Nerib there are two streets: the conservatives live on one and the liberals live on the other. In a village that has seen so much conflict, and where the population is literally divided, an event that brings a variety of people together to laugh together can be radical. Not politically radical — just radical. We walked back to join the rest of the group, followed by suspicious looks. We soon heard from the men of Nerib that it would be better if we do not perform our show within the village after all.
So we set up to do the show at the school instead, put on our costumes, and went out to see how big an audience we could bring back with us in a parade. I was nervous for the parade.
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Nerib had not been very welcoming. But my second meeting with the village was entirely different. As the clowns paraded through, women and children stepped out of their yards, smiled, laughed, and clapped with the drumbeat. Children followed along with us, wanting to play.