Nu Dagbé, Cotonou

How it began

While researching, Lucas recently came across the Nu Dagbé social circus in Benin’s capital Cotonou. He contacted them and then organized a trip together with his clown partner Tommy.

The project

The social circus was founded by a Nigerian acrobat with the support of the Camaro Foundation from Berlin. He offered street children, who had often left their parents’ home at the age of 7 due to the violence that prevailed there and survived on casual labor at the largest market in Cotonou, an artistic education and thus a perspective.

The circus group practiced regularly on the sandy beach in Cotonou – until the police arrived. The latter falsely suspected the founder of wanting to abduct the young people to Nigeria. That’s why the whole group was suddenly in prison. After four weeks, she was released again, thanks in part to the commitment of some people who affirmed that the social circus was a good thing – or Nu Dagbé, as it is called in the West African Fon. This gave the project its name. But when a national tour got off to a successful start in 2020, the coronavirus came along. Without performances and training sessions, the young people were suddenly on their own again and the social circus struggled to really pick up speed again.

The group and its coordinator Karola Kipp-Manirafasha were therefore delighted when they heard about the interest from Switzerland. At the beginning of December, the experienced circus animators and clowns Lucas Cadonau and Tommy Müller traveled to Benin for the Plume association to get an idea of Nu Dagbé. The two were quickly convinced by the young artists’ skills. In a children’s home, he and Tommy Müller performed a show with Nu Dagbé for and with the children. “The children’s eyes lit up with pride when they took part in the acts. The young people from Nu Dagbé were idols for them,” reports Lucas Cadonau.

A concept was developed with the coordinator Karola Kipp-Manirafasha and Dr. Bernhard Comlan, the group’s psychological supervisor and director of the children’s home. It provides for Nu Dagbé to teach the children in the home circus skills on a weekly basis. Four other children’s homes in Cotonou have joined this idea. Artists from Nu Dagbé will hold circus classes with the children once a week in each of the five homes. Among other things, the circus play enables the mostly traumatized children who have fled their homes to rebuild trust in other people. At the same time, Nu Dagbé’s street children are given paid employment as artists and animators.

Support from Plume

2023 Fundraising campaign in December for start-up financing

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