On October 21, 2023, Justin Ntwali, board member, acrobat and trainer at Unity Circus in Gisenyi, Rwanda, visited the Maroni Children’s and Youth Circus in Stuttgart. He was a guest at a performance and spoke to members of the association and young acrobats about opportunities for collaboration.
Justin Ntwali is currently completing his one-year voluntary service at the Stiftung Liebenau in Ravensburg. In addition to social work, Justin has a very special passion: the circus! At home in Rwanda, he is an active member of Unity Circus, which aims to provide children and young people from low-income backgrounds in the region around the town of Gisenyi with meaningful leisure activities. At the same time, Unity Circus combats poverty in the region through income-generating activities.
The meeting between Justin and Circus Maroni was inspiring for both sides. Justin would love to volunteer with Circus Maroni in his spare time, both as an acrobat and as a trainer, as he is keen to teach the kids from Bad Boll some acrobatic tricks. Justin is looking forward to passing on his knowledge and at the same time learning from the talented members of Zircus Maroni.
In conversation, Justin expressed his hope that a cultural and cross-border exchange will be possible between the two circuses. He particularly hopes that Circus Maroni will be able to come to Rwanda with a small team in 2025 and take part in the Kivu Circus Festival, which Unity Circus is currently planning together with others. Circus Maroni could already be involved in the planning for a preparatory festival in 2024.
The Maroni children’s and youth circus was founded in 1989 and offers around 40 children and young people from Bad Boll and the surrounding area the opportunity to develop their artistic and social skills. Parents organize the activities and performances, accompanied by a dedicated circus crew. The work of Zirkus Maroni not only promotes artistic skills, but also the social and personal development of the kids. The circus is inclusive and integrates young people from a wide range of social backgrounds. In addition to training in various disciplines such as acrobatics, juggling and clowning, the program also includes joint camps and performances. Parents play an active role in supporting the circus. The circus is financed by performances, contributions and donations.
Unity Circus and Circus Maroni have a lot in common: both circuses rely on inclusive practices that enable young people with different abilities to integrate as equal members. This inclusive approach not only promotes the individual development of the kids, but also strengthens cohesion within the groups. Both Unity Circus and Circus Maroni play an active role in the community. By organizing events, they create positive connections to their respective environments. Both circuses attach great importance not only to developing artistic skills, but also to strengthening the young acrobats’ personal qualities such as self-confidence, independence and personal responsibility. The kids learn to overcome challenges and take responsibility for their own tasks.
The similarities between Unity Circus and Circus Maroni show that circus, both in Germany and in Rwanda, does not have to be just a form of entertainment, but can provide a powerful platform for personal, social and cultural development.
At the end of his visit to Circus Maroni, Justin says enthusiastically: “I have lots of ideas and hope that further collaboration between Circus Maroni and Unity Circus will be possible. Such a connection would enable the children and young people of both circuses to grow far beyond their own cultural boundaries and gain new perspectives. I dream of joint trainings and performances, but above all I dream that we will meet again at the Kivu Circus Festival 2025 in Rwanda and that Circus Maroni can support us in the organization of this important event through its participation!”