Trailblazer Sosina Wogayehu first took to the big top at the tender age of six in her native Ethiopia, beginning a storied career that would see her mesmerize audiences worldwide as a renowned circus performer. By teenagerhood, international tours showcased her extraordinary talents, leading her to join the renowned Circus Oz troupe in Australia. There, her skills grew playing an integral role on the board of directors.
Eager to expand her knowledge, Sosina pursued degrees in Theatre Production and Circus Arts. Her passion for the circus arts led her to pursue a degree in Theatre Production from Swinburne University and another from the National Institute of Circus Arts in Melbourne, Australia.
This fueled her deep-rooted belief in education’s power to illuminate lives. Upon returning to Ethiopia in 2014, she established the Gamo Circus School, providing underprivileged youth top-quality training to nurture their gifts and fulfill their potential.
Reflecting on her own journey, Sosina understands the profound impact of exposure to the wider world. Shemanaged to secure invitations for her students to dazzle in Australia, US, Europe and the Middle East.
“Education is the key to unlocking the potential of young circus artists,” Sosina said. “Through Gamo Circus School, we strive to provide them with the necessary skills and opportunities to flourish in the global circus industry without any fees.”
However, the path to success is not without its challenges. Operating within various youth centers, Gamo Circus School faces obstacles that hinder its growth. While these centers serve as training venues, they lack the essential facilities required for circus-focused activities.
Sosina emphasizes the urgent need for dedicated spaces equipped with showers and private changing rooms, ensuring a conducive learning environment for these aspiring artists.
“We must create suitable training environments for our students, where they can develop their skills and talents without limitations. Access to adequate facilities is crucial for their growth as circus artists,” Sosina explained.
Limited availability of quality circus gear is a major challenge faced by Ethiopian performers. The government classifies such essential tools as luxury items, restricting imports.
Despite this, Sosina has invested personal funds to procure necessary equipment, recognizing its importance in cultivating up-and-coming talent.
“Having access to proper equipment is vital for artistic development. We must address barriers hindering progress and provide what artists require to excel,” asserts Sosina.
She is also establishing Ethiopia’s largest dedicated circus center in Addis Ababa through her company Ethio Circus Management, though importing materials from abroad has proven difficult.
Despite obstacles, Ethiopian circus artists have found international success.
Sosina’s renowned Gamo Circus School, which currently teaches 138 students, has produced stars like Abraham Nibret and Yabsega Tadegen, who gained recognition on the TV show “Little Big Shots,” showcasing Ethiopian performers’ abilities.
To overcome challenges and promote growth, Ethiopia’s circus community is working to gain support through the Ethiopian National Circus Association representing over 6,200 artists nationwide. The Association was formed in 2020.
Lack of government and infrastructural support remains a pressing concern, as does difficulty obtaining visas and passports, which can hamper artists’ global participation and development. With aid, Ethiopia’s growing circus field has potential for further advancement
The Association is striving to elevate the status of circus in Ethiopia, according to the group’s president Teklu Ashagre.
“We require supportive policies, infrastructure development, and streamlined visa and passport processes to help our growing industry thrive,” says Teklu.
Teklu notes the Association is dedicated to shining a light on Ethiopia’s talented circus artists and elevating its status as an art form.
To this end, the Association is engaging with the Ministry of Culture to promote circus’ cultural significance beyond its perception as merely a sport. “We are advocating for dedicated circus centers and the removalof bureaucratic barriers stunting the growth of the industry. Circus is a vibrant art,it is more than a sport. It is deserving of support and recognition,” heexplained.
In a welcome show of commitment, the Ethiopian government’s ten-year development plan includes constructing four circus centers
“The government’s commitment to constructing dedicated circus centers marks a significant milestone in fostering the growth and development of the Ethiopian circus industry. We firmly believe that these centers will serve as vibrant hubs for nurturing talent, fostering creativity, and attracting international attention,” Teklu emphasized.
To preserve Ethiopian circus heritage, the Association has also partnered with Addis Ababa University to document this unique expression. Collaboration aims to incorporate circus into national curriculum to ensure future generations can access their cultural roots, according to Teklu.
The circus industry has made remarkable strides, defying odds and providing a platform for exceptionally talented artists to shine.
Ethiopian circus artists, Teklu says, possess incredible talent.
“They have so much to offer to the world. It is our collective responsibility to provide them with the support and recognition they need to thrive. Together, we can create a vibrant and sustainable circus industry in Ethiopia,” Teklu concluded.