Hannah Gaff represented CWB – USA at the 2019 ClownEncuentro in Cali, Colombia.
ClownEncuentro is a magical clown gathering that takes place in Colombia every two years (or so) and has five major objectives: learning and artistic development, dialogue, research, networking, and cultivating new audiences. It’s a truly great clown community gathering, one of only a few similar events taking place around the world. It provides an opportunity to be in community and connect with other passionate clowns, to have necessary conversations about the art of clown and its purpose in present-day culture, and to forge relationships and connections. These are seeds that will grow into fruitful collaborations, bringing more clown-goodness to the world.
My role at Clown Encuentro (as representative of CWB) is multilayered. Clowns Without Borders has a long-standing and wonderful partnership with Clown Encuentro (since 2010) and with Cali Clown, the humanitarian clowning organization that hosted Clown Encuentro this year. I’m here to deepen our relationship in a variety of ways. I’ll lead 12 hours of workshops to share tools for creating a CWB-style show, culminating in a community performance at the festival. We have partnered with our colleagues at Cali Clown to tour the show to marginalized communities in Cali—all of this in six days, and with my very remedial Spanish-language skills. Whooohooo!
On the flight to Cali, I spend some time choosing my intentions for the trip. Of course, it’s my intention to represent CWB well and to run a great workshop for the 20 students who signed up. I want to guide the creation of an impactful show that brings joy and resilience, and to fulfill all of my responsibilities successfully and with grace. I decide that my major intentions, underlying all of that, are to be present, listen, connect deeply, and to be flexible as things inevitably change. What a treat to be thrown into this cauldron of clowns!
So far, my deep take-away is how essential connection is for every human, everywhere. I’m experiencing reverberations of connection, shared experience, and community from everyone I meet. The desire to connect, to play, and to be seen is huge!
The several hundred clowns who travel from all over Latin America and beyond, despite a variety of barriers, arrive in Cali to be in fellowship with other clowns. They’re hungry to be in the same space and to share their experiences. The 19 students in my CWB workshop, Physical Comedy for the Social Clown, meet each other early on a Friday. Three days later our group has formed a deep and long-lasting bond.