The Broader Picture: A time to laugh

THIS IS not voluntary foreign aid as we are accustomed to seeing it on news reports. This unique kind of aid worker arrives at refugee encampments or stricken regions armed not with blankets, food or tents, but with stilts, comic wigs and plastic red noses. This is because what we have here is a performer from the French charity troupe "Clowns sans Frontieres" ("Clowns without borders"), bringing his special kind of cheer to some slightly sceptical-looking children from a Guatemalan shanty-town.

The organisation was founded in 1994 by a group of comedians, dancers, clowns, musicians and acrobats. "Without discriminating about race, religion or political beliefs," reads its high-flown manifesto (translated from the French), "Clowns sans Frontieres organises professional shows for victims of war, refugees and those who are suffering, wherever such needs exist ... we believe that trying to raise morale is as important to people's wellbeing as providing material aid. Through our shows we hope to transmit a message of hope and peace, not only to the displaced but also to artists demoralised by war, in order to encourage them to rediscover their creativity."

So far, more than 100 performers have taken part in Clowns sans Frontieres projects (the group does not have a permanent troupe, but instead relies on volunteers). The excursions - of which there are about seven each year - are funded by private donations, company sponsorship and support from theatrical and humanitarian agencies. The "Clowns" are keen to emphasise that only professional performers need apply - not "guitar- graters" hankering after exotic holidays.

The photographer, Malik Nahassia, followed this troupe as they travelled through the slums of central America, but the "Clowns" have also been to Croatia, Sarajevo, Romania, Lebanon, Haiti and the Gaza Strip. It's hard to imagine them attempting to offer solace to the refugees from Kosovo but, as it turns out, a visit to Montenegro is planned for later in the year. The final word goes to Nahassia, who says that the Clowns sans Frontieres cannot always know "whether the bottle thrown into the sea ever arrives; what matters is that someone throws it".

Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Arts and Entertainment
Bono throws water at the crowd while the Edge watches as they perform in the band's first concert of their new world tour in Vancouver

MusicThey're running their own restaurants

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
    Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

    Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

    David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
    Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

    Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

    A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
    10 best DSLRs

    Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

    Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash