This post is well overdue. Perhaps I have been birthing what to share about this phenomenal Tao of Clown course, the enchanting teacher, the open hearted clowns, and Tahuwhakatiki marae’s wild & grace.
As winter started to lift her weary head, her August saw the extraordinary Giovanni Fusetti kiss the land of Aotearoa with his presence.
Giovanni Fusetti runs Helikos, the International School of Theatre Creation in Florence, Italy.
I met Giovanni half a decade ago. I came to him as a student, he a teacher of mask (neutral to red nose). I later found his Tao of Clown. I was working as a High School Drama, English & Health Teacher at the time and watched my practice deeply move by Giovanni’s ‘way’.
Like my first clown teacher (Lisa Brickell) I was inspired by Giovanni’s lightness, and fun. Immediately I wanted to infuse my teaching, ‘my’ classroom, with these qualities.
I was also moved however by the European rigour of teaching. Giovanni’s commitment to time, his preparedness, the flow of his teaching, the depth of his knowledge… His ability to combine intention and structure with a balance of instinctive flexibility and heart.
Through my lens, he seemed a teacher in the greatest sense of the word. He embraced his power. He was thoroughly kind. He was aware of the ritual and responsibilities around being a teacher. He kept checking in with all that he could to maintain a sense of consciousness with how he was guiding us, our naive, open, brave, explorative clowns.
I came away from Tao of Clown with a place to return to, in myself, a clown to remind me of a way I may have been, a way I could be. My particular way was one which was more still, less able to think, more able to blob but somehow sifted with an all encompassing joy with just being with me, and plenty of self simulated brass band noise, and a march to nowhere in particular.
I’m aware to many, these words may sound non-sensical or disorientating. Perhaps not? There’s much my head doesn’t compute about being in the state of the clown and I believe that is ‘juste’ ‘right’.
I always boomerang back to a deep sense of gratitude for my fellow clowns. I had a sensational time trying on their clowns too. I have such gratitude for Lisa Brickell who has collected inviting colours, shapes, textures, sizes of costume to choose when our clown awakes. These materials are carted about the country in bulging canvas bags and lent to others with such abundance. And Giovanni – what a man you are. What a teacher. What a gift. What a midwife. We all thank you with unbounded heart.
Thank you also to Tahuwhakatiki Marae. Upon reflection (and not without cringing in the act) we were clowns from the get go in your auspicious space. Thank you for having the heart to accept us whilst also ‘killing us kindly’ with your teaching. The grace and wildness of your space on the edge of the water and with quiet and green all around with Mauao in front, helped to bring the clowns closer and stronger and softer and everything-er.
13 clowns participated in Tao of Clown at Tahuwhakatiki Marae in August 2013 with Giovanni Fusetti. Two palm fulls came from all over te Ika-a-Maui and a trinity from Australia. The Clowns slept on the marae. We all helped with kai. I prepared dinners. The first night’s taco spread came complete with a spicey mince recipe given to my Mum when I was a child from a Mexican visitor. I still remember the romantic couple. He a kiwi and she the recipe giver. She was beautiful with her chocolate skin that met her lusty long hair worn untied. A chocolate self saucing pudding brought us back to our kiwi roots. The second night we managed to pull off a hangi (thanks again Tahuwhakatiki Marae and Janice and her very generous whanau for tending to the fire, the pit and laying the feast). Kia Ora Kim Cleland and Tess Gamble for your heart and hands in my kitchen also. Pig, bird, whole beetroots, mini pumpkin’s stuffed with Skye Gyngell’s chickpea tagine accompanied a simple rocket salad. A mama recipe for the most decadent Sticky Date Pudding with ladles of warm caramel sauce was used for that piece de resistance.
On the eve of Sunday 25 August I made the final drive across town from Matua to Welcome Bay listening to the national radio programme which featured Rangi Kipa followed by an interview with artist Darcy Nicholas (nō Taranaki whānui, Tauranga Moana) who also curated the exhibition Reo karanga o Taranaki – Call of Taranaki at Puke Ariki Museum, Taranaki.
Hearing the stories of these two deeply creative and successful Maori men (one of which from Tauranga Moana) on this last journey to Tahuwhakatiki reminded me of the powerful choice to hold this workshop on the marae, the potency of Aotearoa’s tangata whenua and the taonga / gifts we have access to in this land.
And if I had needed further confirmation that Tao of Clown needed to happen Sunday 25 August marked national red nose day in New Zealand. Wowzer.
As someone who had organised this residential clown workshop and had supported ‘her’ ‘being’ I was replenished by entering the wharenui on the final night. Whilst tracing the eyes,faces and bodies sitting in ease in the circle next to me I marveled at the transformation from our first clumsy and tentative powhiri to the present porowhitu. Your clown sat solid, independent and (I just typed flowing but i thought i meant glowing) with an unseen but felt precious thread of connection and knowing. That time in your circle was medicinal – a nourishing acknowledgment and encouragement to continue to foster further occasions as such.
You may want to do a(nother) clown course real soon or a little further away. Lisa Brickell and Zack McCracken are offering a Clown Camp this January 2014 close to Auckland, New Zealand. Giovanni Fusetti runs courses (long and short) all around the world and regularly in Florence, Italy and Boulder, Colorado, USA.
Until we meet (again) clowns and future clowns – be well.