Press Review
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Life is unfortunately too real for circus artistes
By : Shamsul Alam Belal, BSS

DHAKA, NOV 29 (BSS)-Spectators can dream and have fantasies as they pay for a circus show. But for the circus artists, life is unfortunately too real: an uncertain future and, at times, a difficult way of living.

Those having a straight glimpse of acrobats and trapeze girls in breath-striking games in a circus show are obviously excited seeing the apparently impossible artistry and skill of even the minor girls.

A photo exhibition at the Alliance Francaise here depicts their lives through camera lenses: highly challenging as well as risky and far different from the life of artists of same ages in the fields of entertainments.

This is perhaps another chapter of acute problem of child labor in Bangladesh, where thousands of minor boys and girls are constantly being forced by various social compulsions to earn their bread by doing different odd jobs. In circuses, people seldom feel humanly about the pains of minor acrobats or trapeze artistes as their eye-catching skillful games keep them spellbound and bemused throughout the show.

Titled as `Chobimela II,' the organizers billed the exhibition as the first festival of Photography in Asia and one of the most exciting ventures in Bangladesh. With around two dozens of photographs, the exhibition is being held at Alliance Francaise here from November 17 to December 2.

Alliance Francaise, Drik Pictures Library, Goethe Institute, Royal Norwegian Embassy, British Council, Ministry of Cultural Affairs and Ministry of Foreign Affairs are jointly organizing the exhibition. French photographer Pierre Claquin took the photographs, whose captions speak the truth about their hard life.

"Each day of my last six years, I have realized that if I fall, I will die," says Eti, aged 12 years, a trapeze artiste of the Royal Bengal Circus. The 35-year trapeze queen Moumita of the Rajmahal circus says that she is always scared of any mistake that will cause her mate seven years old Adhuri fall and die.

Fatema aged eight years is an acrobat of the New Star Circus, fostering an ,otherwise, agony in her mind. When her poor father divorced her mother, she could not realize what would happen in her fate.

"My father divorced my mother. For the last two years, whatever I earn goes to my mother in the village," she says seemingly in a lamenting expression. Koni, aged around 12 years, had a sweet dream of going to school but her fate brought her to the Lion Circus to become an acrobat.

"I would like to go to school since I know how to write my name. I told my father to admit me in a school but he did not respond," she said meaning that poverty had brought her to a circus ring, not school.

Koni's father is one of those generally want their children stay at home to become domestic helps or work in a rich family at least to get regular food and earn some money. Instead of being a maid-servant often subjected to various repressions or a street girl falling prey to sexual abuses, she is lucky to have been an acrobat to entertain the people in a circus show.

In 2000, Pierre Claquin was in Bangladesh, seeking to know about the existence of circus in this country. He learnt from the urban gentleman that circuses were gone, finished by the intrusion of Television into homes.

"Being a stubborn French Breton, I went out to find out for myself. There were 10 circuses in Bangladesh still active by mid- 2002," he said.

In most cultures, circuses have a special and almost magical place fascinating children and adults alike, perhaps because their shows pertain to dream and reality at the same time. On the other hand, circus brings nature back to the spectators: the world of wild animals into a tamed life as well as the extremes of a human body particularly of the dwarfs and the trapeze girls.