Mesopotamia Circus and Street Arts Project

Starting in 2012, the Mardin Youth and Culture Association (Mardin Gençlik ve Kültür Derneği) in Mardin has initiated and developed a project based on circus and street arts.
The partnership established in 2013 with French NGO “The Serious Road Trip” in Besançon has resulted in a programme of exchanges and trainer-training in the field of “social circus”.

What are the main aims of “social circus”? How can circus teaching be used as a social and educational discipline? Over these 8 years of working together, we have established a team able to organize and lead circus workshops and sustain the momentum of social projects in a spirit of creativity. What are the results of our progress so far, and what are the plans and prospects for the future?

Social Circus; 

Social Circus; is an innovative tool for the education and social inclusion of children, young people and adults in situations of social risk. By addressing schools, neighbourhoods and communities in fragile socio-economic contexts and conflict zones, social circus acts as an inter-cultural lever for building connections between the participants. It strengthens their confidence and self-esteem, while developing their physical capabilities and day-to-day life-skills. 

One of the fundamental principles of social circus is to consider the local context of each partner, identifying specific problems, needs and traumas. For each child in difficulty, the ability to bring out their own value and qualities is a means of giving them tools of self-confidence that can be transferred to other aspects of learning. 

We especially consider the geopolitical context of South-East Turkey, a region where we are currently concentrating our work. We are aware of the socio-economic difficulties of the local population, which are now compounded by the presence of a large number of refugees, who are fleeing war zones, are often severely traumatized and now face problems of social integration.

Why do we use circus as a teaching method?

Circus offers a range of educational, artistic and technical learning activities that promote the psychomotor development of children, teenagers and adults. 

In particular, the circus arts promote the development of motor abilities in the domains of balance, coordination and differentiation, while providing a setting that allows space for imagination and creativity. 

Creativity enables participants to express what they feel, awakens their imagination and heightens their self-awareness. 

Everyone can find their own place, express themselves, attain personal fulfilment and discover the pleasures of overcoming their own limits, both physically and emotionally.

We seek to promote interchange, sharing, cooperation and helping others. 

We focus on making each activity and situation as fun and playful as possible, giving maximum encouragement to each person’s successes and discoveries while always stimulating progress, both individually and in the organization of the group. 

This work can only be done in an environment of respect for others, for the equipment and for safety

The aims of circus workshops:

Socio-educational aims:
A circus workshop is an opportunity for participants to discover and learn a new activity. As in any other cultural or sporting activity, the aim is to experiment and if possible acquire a skill-set through exercises that alternate between working individually and working together as a team The “team” is an extremely important aspect of the workshop: circus often requires the presence of others to support, assist, protect and focus attention.

Therapeutic aims:
These aims concerns two aspects of each individual – the motor aspect and the psychological aspect. In our workshops, the work on each person’s psychology starts with building their self-esteem. This self-esteem is not founded on the false basis flattery but is always the reward of genuine effort, voluntarily undertaken by the person. To achieve this aim, we seek to dissolve the intimidating and inhibiting aura surrounding the notion of success, to avoid comparisons, to transform each “failure” into an opportunity and to encourage perseverance, adaptability, repetition and creativity.

Fun and games:
During our workshops, game-playing is both a means and an end. The diverse circus disciplines offer many opportunities for games that each individual can join in easily. For us, games provide a means to attain the 2 sets of aims described above and to give each participant a source of repeated pleasure that is always fresh and new.

Shows and performances:
A performance or the creation of a show is often required by the clients of our projects. Children are guided to prepare, create, invent and organize themselves for a common goal. Sometimes, creating a show can be a source of stress for the child. So, the presence of the child on stage must always be voluntary and never imposed.

Workshop Organization:

The participants will be introduced individually and collectively to each type of circus discipline. We organize our workshops into different activities that each participant will experience, develop and tackle at their own pace

Social Circus in Mardin: progress report and prospects

After these 8 years of activities in the use of the circus arts for socio-educational purposes, we have a number of achievements to report. 

Every year, the Youth and Culture Association organizes a “Mesopotamian Street and Circus Arts Festival” in the city and province of Mardin. 40 local and international artists are invited to promote the performance arts by giving shows in places where culture is not highly developed. 

The Youth and Culture Association has also organized 4 professional trainer-training sessions for the young adults of Mardin, under the guidance of experienced circus trainers, from all around the World. 

2 trainer-training projects outside Turkey have been held, one in France in Besançon in 2014, and one in Germany at the Cabuwazi circus school in Berlin in 2016. 

15 young people are currently responsible for organizing circus workshops at the Mardin Youth and Culture Association. We also provide continuous training to ensure that they continue developing their skills. 

Between 2012-2016 we have reached 120.000 children by “Mesopotamia Circus and Street Arts Festival”. After the outbreak of war in Syria and the influx of Syrian refugees to Mardin, we began to work in the field of “social cohesion” in 2015. In order to reduce the negativity of refugees fleeing the war in Syria and to contribute to the social cohesion of local and refugee youth and children, we carried out “Mesopotamia Circus and Street Arts Project” with partnership UNICEF, GAP, TKV and Mardin Youth and Culture House in 2016. 

Since 2016 till today we have visited 6 different cities including Mardin, 51 towns, district and villages in the Southeastern Anatolia Region. With the training and festivals we have arranged, we aimed to enable young people and children to meet social circus art and through circus art to contribute social cohesion. With the training of children we have reached 3828 children including 1625 Syrian children, through festivals we have reached 275,098 children, 76,601 of them was Syrian and by trainer-training we have reached 60 young people