All children are born looking up. Not all see the same sky; clear blue, cotton white, exhaust fume grey, red, black. Some are taught to look for shapes in the clouds, birds. Others for barbed wire and smoke. Some to spot words on blackboards and others, the trail of bombs being dropped.
Photo by Wix
‘Children see magic because they look for it.’ Most stop when they grow up; the change usually come with time, more height, less natural light. Failed expectations, eyesight, and insight. Other contributing factors: the dusty particles of disillusion, the wear and tear of life.
By adulthood, most people are blind, but the real tragedies are the children whose right to see magic is taken artificially: The more than 350 million of them living in conflict zones, the one in six around the world seeing things no human should.
Sights, smells, and sounds. Recurring nightmares of disappearing sky, shaking ground. No child, for whatever reason or principle, should ever be exposed to that.
No child should be deprived of the right to live, survive and develop healthily. To an identity, care, respect, physical and mental wellbeing. The right to play and to be protected from exploitation, abuse, violence. To look up at the sky; look for magic; see rainbows, birds, acrobats on flying trapezes.
For a long time, such sights were forbidden in Taliban Afghanistan. As were music, dissent, girls in classrooms, and non-religious entertainment. Security was missing too, and hope, and access to food, water, shelter. Until one day, the children in a village saw a foreigner pitching a tent.
David Mason came to Afghanistan from Denmark in 2002. He and hundreds, thousands of others scrambling to bring aid to the country. Most brought food, medicines, and blankets. David had something else in mind: He started a ‘Mobile Mini Circus for Children’ to learn to see magic again.
The circus went on tour; since 2002, it has enchanted and educated more than 2.7 million children in 25 provinces of Afghanistan. It also trains hundreds of girls and boys on artistic expression and circus skills; they actually learn to build human pyramids and swing from flying trapezes.
They also learn about basic hygiene, health, landmine awareness, and peace. Teamwork, trust, They learn to be happy. They relearn to be happy and see.
Each year there are national circus festivals and assemblies in Afghanistan. The children cross the country’s divided lines, practice and perform together.
Sometimes they travel abroad to juggle, spin Chinese sticks, and perform stunts. Sometimes they teach other children to do it, in other refugee camps and war zones.
Perhaps one day they will teach adults too, to look and see differently. To jump, swing, smile, catch one another. Now wouldn’t that be a sight.