International

Amid War, Free Gaza Circus Center Offers A Fleeting Feeling Of Freedom

Mohammed Ayman, co-founder of the Free Gaza Circus, is determined to entertain Gaza’s kids

Advertisement

A Brief Respite: Children living in a camp for displaced Palestinians participate in a group activit
info_icon

My friend Yusef Khader and I, both born and brought up in Gaza, started the Free Gaza Circus in 2018. We also opened a school in north Gaza to train youngsters called the Free Gaza Circus Center. Circus culture is practically non-existent in Gaza. Youngsters in Gaza were watching circus performances on social media. We knew they were enjoying this. So we thought, why not have a circus group in our homeland? We started the Free Gaza Circus to give youngsters and students in Palestine a chance to take up something new, to connect better with the community and their team mates, and to experience a feeling of liberation through performing in the Circus. There are many hardships that people—especially unemployed youths—have to suffer in Gaza. Everyday life is a struggle for most Gazans. We set up the Circus because we wanted to give youngsters a chance to feel free. It is a place where young people can be unselfconscious and freely express themselves through their bodies.

Advertisement

Before the war, we were in north Gaza. We had 180 students during the school year. In the summer break, there were over 2,000 students at the Centre. They were of all ages, ten-year-olds to teenagers, the whole bunch very exci­ted to learn and perform.

We were like one big family. We shared many laughs even in tough times. When the war started, we had to evacuate to the south. Our group got scattered. We lost track of our students. A few of us ended up at Jabalia camp and regrouped. We heard that the Centre was badly damaged in an Israeli attack but how can we go back there and check!

Advertisement

Now, we entertain the children (and adults) at the camp. I like it when the children’s faces light up. When we perform for them, we hope that it takes their minds off the horrible violence that they have seen and suffered. Forget the bomb strikes and ruined homes. Forget the tears they have shed. It distracts them from what is going on and gives them a sense of safety. We give them a feeling of freedom for at least a few minutes. It may be just a feeling, it may not be real, but we are happy to entertain them as the war rages on outside.

We also encourage them to do movement activities along with us. This helps to release the fear and negative energy they have been bottling up inside because of the war.

We gather athletic people as we move from camp to camp. So, our group is growing these days. We have performed at many of the UN Relief and Works Agency schools where displaced Palestinians are living today. We will continue to do this as long as we are here. The war can’t stop us.

(As told to Vineetha Mokkil)

(This appeared in the print as 'A Fleeting Feeling of Freedom')

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement