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Payasos Sin Fronteras - Spreading joy in a world of pain

Published:Sunday | October 5, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Cristina Julia (right) and Jordi Sabán engage a child during their performance at Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. - Contributed
Close to 200 schoolchildren from inner-city schools and children's homes watch volunteers from Payasos Sin Fronteras in performance at Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.
Creative expression in herself: Cristina Julia of Payasos Sin Fronteras.
Getting ready to spread happiness: Cristina Julia puts finishing touches to the 'clowning glory'.

Amitabh Sharma, Contributor

Think of clowns, the comical jesters with painted faces, adorned with puffed and pleated multicoloured costumes, oversized shoes, the laughing stock of the circus - but for Payasos Sin Fronteras (Clowns Without Borders) clowning is a serious business.

Last month, two clowns from Payasos Sin Fronteras travelled to Jamaica to interact with children and youngsters drawn from communities and schools to bring cheer and smiles.

"This is a first-time initiative," said Rebecca Tortello, general manager, The Spanish-Jamaican Foundation. "The primary objective (of their visit) was to give a new dimension to child welfare, intervention, and community safety, and mitigate the effects of violence in children."

Since 1993, the Spain-based non-governmental organisation has been offering humour as a means of psychological support to communities that have suffered trauma. Charlie Chaplin once said, "To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it!" The clowns of Payasos Sin Fronteras, like any other performing artistes, are giving a new dimension to bringing cheer and laughter to the lives of children who are susceptible and vulnerable to challenges thrown upon them by adults.

Unconventional intervention methodologies have been popular and effective and have been used for centuries across the world, and among them, laughter is always seen as the best medicine.

Love and happiness transcend boundaries - Payasos' Cristina Julia and Jordi Saban spread oodles of it when they visited Jamaica. "Neither of them can speak English," said Tortello, "but that was no barrier, they were able to engage the audiences and strike a chord."

Their visit touched the lives of close to 1,000 children between the ages of 4 and 12, from children's homes and schools located in vulnerable communities.

They humoured, gesticulated, engaged and tickled the audiences with their antics. An art form in themselves, the clowns with their bold, bright make-up enlivened the spirits of the audience.

"The children enjoyed every moment of it," remarked Malvis Aranda, Spanish lecturer at Sam Sharpe Teacher's College, Montego Bay. "Clowning infuses elements of dramatic techniques used in teaching, and it was very effective in getting the message across."

Clowns go beyond their make-up and their antics; they have played an important role as integral part of societies. In India, the epics 'Mahabharata' and 'Ramayana', where the dialogue was in the ancient Indian language, the Vidushak or the clown was the interpreter to get those messages to the wider population, who spoke their language, Prakrit.

Payasos sin Fronteras, founded in Barcelona, offers humour as a means of psychological support to communities that have suffered trauma. Members of the organisation travel across the world to improve emotional needs of children who are victims of conflicts and natural disasters, as well as that of their communities.

"Payasos Sin Fronteras comprises professional artistes, with experience in circus circuits, theatre, puppets, among other disciplines, volunteer to give these children renewed hope," Tortello informed.

"The artistes' performances centre on humour," she continued. "The clowns use their own gags and resources to improvise or tailor their work to different contexts."

It is a known fact that it is easy to make someone cry, but it takes a whale of an effort to make someone laugh.

The Payasos, overcoming their personal challenges, masked by that happy face, and like the glow from a small lamp that dispels the darkness in a greater space - travel the world to spread cheer; summarised in the words of John Lennon, "Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears."