Travelling through danger zones, the Afghan Mobile Mini Circus for Children aims to entertain kids and adults alike.
It also gives children aged 5-17 the chance to learn juggling, unicycling, acrobatics, and magic tricks.
Visiting internally displaced persons camps and orphanages the project has grown so popular it now runs centres in ten provinces to spread a little joy in the war-torn country.
“We are all tired of war,” says one Afghan schoolgirl attending a performance. “We have enjoyed this entertainment programme. We wish to have peace and security in our country so we can have more fun and this kind of amusement in our life.”
The circus was opened in 2002 to help children orphaned and traumatised by the conflict.
Many of the instructors are orphans themselves.
“I ask children to come and learn circus tricks and ignore the war,” explains one of the members, Suraya. “Circus is a joyful art I am sure by doing circus tricks children will forget all the pain of war and panic they have in their minds.”
The performances would have been deemed ‘heretical’ under the Taliban, with music being banned, and girls being forbidden from performing in public and attending school.
Founded by Danish dance instructor David Mason, the circus is one of few projects expanding despite a drop in international aid to Afghanistan.
“We tell the children that they should not worry about conflict and war, we give them hope that they will have a bright future. We make the children happy and give them hope that they are the creators of the future so they are better to be happy. We encourage them to show their skills to others. This is our goal to make children happy and keep them safe,” explains circus instructor Khalilullah Hameed.
Clowning around is combined with essential messages such as health, landmine awareness and the importance of going to school. The circus continues its work despite fears over a Taliban resurgence following the withdrawal of US troops from the country at the end of 2014.