Clowns of the revolution: Clowning around for a cause

“Expressing the built-up anger in our clown forms sends an inviting message to children, parents, and any passerby that regardless of how silly we might appear to some for demanding a change in this country, we will still fight for it."
by Perla Kantarjian

30 November 2019 | 17:08

Source: by Annahar

  • by Perla Kantarjian
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 30 November 2019 | 17:08

A Lebanese woman has painted her face like comic-book villain the Joker during a demonstration in Beirut, October 19, 2019. (AFP Photo).

BEIRUT: For almost fifty days, Lebanese from all walks of life have been taking to the streets to overthrow the government, and among the millions of faces of the revolution, a number are clowns and circus people.

With their white-painted faces, red noses, peculiar costumes and circus toys, the clowns of the Lebanese revolution have been diversifying the façades of the uprising to show that even the clowns are not pleased with their country’s political and social situation.

“Partaking in the revolution as a flow artist, juggler and clown feels like the natural thing to do,” Dina Hamdan, a freelance instructor and juggler, told Annahar. “As other people are doctors and engineers, we are simply artists who deserve as much recognition and place in this society."

Likewise, Inana Ibrahim, a flow artist, feels that she is making the “right statement” by “simultaneously fighting for change while spreading happiness in a time of crisis” through her own method of expression: circus art.

Ibrahim and Hamdan are both members of Circus Hub, Lebanon’s very first juggling equipment, skill-toys, and manipulation-object manufacturing group.

Circus artist Paramaz Yepremian founded Circus Hub in 2016 with an aim to produce affordable quality juggling equipment and to grow the flow arts and circus community in Lebanon. The group usually organizes circus sessions in public spaces, and their most recent gathering was at The Egg, the abandoned cinema building, Downtown.

“As a Lebanese citizen, all the revolution’s demands concern me,” Yepremian told Annahar. "That’s why I decided to take part in the uprising through circus arts to revolt against the system while spreading joy and offering visual entertainment to my fellow protesters.”

Clown Around is the collective name of another group of clowns who have been participating in gatherings all around Beirut for the last 8 years, with their latest gatherings being in the revolting streets.

Two clowns, Yara Boustany and Abbas Bayram, organize these “Clown Walks for Laughter” to gather people in the streets and march with colors and music to shed light on social and political issues in Lebanon in a peculiar way.

“The clown is the symbol of absolute freedom: he/she is free from all socially-imposed norms,” Boustany said, adding that bringing the Clown Walks to the streets in “this decisive moment for our country” seems like the obvious choice for the organizers.

“We gather in the revolting areas to spread art, to laugh and cry about our situation, to march and revolt in the name of laughter, creativity, and hope,” Boustany said. 

Similarly, Sabine Choucair, founder of NGO Clown Me In, believes that joining the revolution as clowns is “not a choice, but a must."

Choucair started her NGO with Gabriella Munoz in 2009 in Mexico in an effort to use clowning in social and humanitarian causes. After working with indigenous communities around the world, she returned to fight for the same causes in Lebanon.

“When we first started, we were 4 clowns,” Choucair said. “Now we’re more than 25.”

Apart from its humanitarian work and workshops, Clown Me In organizes interactive street theater in the form of what its members label “Clown Attacks."

“Through Clown Attacks, we take one theme or issue and tackle it in different Lebanese public spaces,” Choucair explained, adding that the clown performances are based on the social and environmental problems being addressed, an example of which being Lebanon’s garbage crisis, a cause the NGO has been actively fighting against.

Monif Al Ameen is another clown participant of the Lebanese revolution, who finds clowning “the purest form of self-expression.”

“Expressing the built-up anger in our clown forms sends an inviting message to children, parents, and any passerby that regardless of how silly we might appear to some for demanding a change in this country, we will still fight for it,” Al Ameen told Annahar.

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