Performer & Instructor
He was born into a homeless family and life started on the streets of Cape Town with his mother and two siblings. Phelelani describes his life before the circus as “hell.”
Ree, which is short for ‘Remember’ is the English name his mother gave him, so that he would always remember where he came from. At the age of 16 he persuaded his mother to allow him to go to a shelter in Salt River. He yearned to go to school, live a normal life and own a pair of school shoes. At the shelter he encountered Zip Zap and recalls his amazement at the guys juggling and riding a bicycle with one wheel. He was hooked.
Now a decade on Ree is one of Zip Zap’s star performers and mentors the youth through teaching.
His career in circus exploded at a spectacular pace. Ree has remarkable physicality, blended artfully with intense creative expression, captivating audiences. His first international tour was to the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain in 2012. He has since performed as one of the leads in all national productions, most notably the Match in Africa #6, hosted by the Roger Federer Foundation. Ree is a powerful, passionate, and dazzling character that radiates to his audience. He is a multi-talented acrobat, his specialties being Cyr Wheel and straps.
“Sometimes when I’m performing I don’t even feel myself doing it. It’s like part of me stays backstage and my soul goes out to perform. I now know I was born to perform.” – Ree
Xolani is 24 years old and lives in Du Noon. In 2015 he saw a Zip Zap show in Khayelitsha and was so inspired that he signed up to join D2D. He is currently in his professional insertion year and received the Fellowship Award at our AGM, voted in by his peers. He rises to the challenge, is responsible and well-respected. Xolani took ownership of the Beginners programme in 2019 when there was a shortage of staff and he excelled at assisting the rest of the team.
He created an amazing act on the scarf for his final year-end evaluation, enjoying much praise from the audience. Xolani’s confidence has grown in leaps and bounds. He has taken the major step of finding his own accommodation and now manages his own home. He takes great pride in all he has achieved and seizes every opportunity presented.
He also successfully completed an Events Management course during 2019.
“My dream is to look back and connect all the dots and have my own house, car and be self-sustainable.”
Performer & Instructor
Things were tough at home – money was scarce and domestic violence pervasive – so around the age of 10, Jacobus decided to rather live on the streets. Handouts dried up as he grew older and he started using drugs as an escape. A chance meeting with a good Samaritan led him to a shelter in Salt River. He was able to go to school and sleep with a roof over his head for the first time in years. At the shelter children are given the opportunity to be part of Zip Zap’s 2nd Chance programme, which helps vulnerable youngsters develop their talents.
‘Trompie’ as he’s affectionately known, chose the circus and he’s never looked back. He matriculated in 2011 and after cycling through the programmes he became a full-time performer.
He now uses his craft to share his story on stage.
Trompie has flourished as a performer and excelled at circus disciplines. He’s performed around the world and was also the main character in a Canadian documentary ‘First Man’ for 5 months. He performs unicycle, juggling, hand-to hand, Cyr wheel, and is a talented acrobat. His sense of fun, comedy and his quirky character makes him an endearing audience favourite!
“You make your own choices in life. You can choose to stay on the streets forever or you can decide to step out of that life.” – Trompie
Inathi’s family home is in Worcester which is 120km from Cape Town. When she first joined the Simunye Programme, she used to wake up at 4am on Saturday, to catch the 4:45am train that arrives in Cape Town at 8am. When Inathi joined the D2D programme in 2018, she had to attend classes daily. Moving into Our Beautiful Shell meant she no longer relied on public transport, which is often delayed and not always safe.
Once she had moved into the on-site residence, she enjoyed nutritious meals and felt safe. Living with a kaleidoscope of nationalities from all corners of the world also made her life more colourful and taught her valuable lessons about responsibility and cohabitating in harmony. Inathi is a self-taught contortionist and specialises in aerial hoop. She has also developed an interest in the technical aspects of Zip Zap shows, such as lighting and sound. Her best memory at Zip Zap was when her family watched her perform in Journey Returns at Artscape, with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra.
“What I like best about Zip Zap is that its doors are always open for everyone, it doesn’t matter what background, race or flaws you may have… you’ll always feel loved & safe.” – Inathi
Instructor & Joy Leader
Lionel started juggling at age 7 and performed his first flying trapeze act aged 11 with Zip Zap Circus. He subsequently flourished at circus and went professional.
“I had no idea where my life would take me at that time. I travelled around the world as a professional circus artist for many years and performed at prestigious festivals and shows. We were living the dream!”
For a time, he believed that performance was his life. Later Lionel decided to go to university and study education and became a school teacher. And then teaching was his life. But circus didn’t just vanish, it made its mark on his being. He adapted what he learned through education, child development and psychology into the context of social circus and started a circus school, called Sisonke.
He has subsequently come full circle and is now the lead instructor (and often Ringmaster) at Zip-Zap.
Creative Show Director & Joy Leader
Christine joined Zip Zap at the tender age of 9. Circus and performance arts have been her lifelong passion.
After studying theatre, film, and make-up, she turned professional and travelled the European circus circuit both on land and on cruise liners. Christine returned to South Africa to work at the acclaimed dinner theatre, Madame Zingara.
Born to perform and gifted in multi-disciplines in performing arts, Christine also excels at directing, stage management and show creation. Having come full circle, she is currently Performance Co-ordinator at Zip Zap, sharing her skills and passion with future circus generations.
“I love what we give to the children. I love seeing the kids’ faces as they arrive and knowing the difference we make.” – Christine
Madison is 10 years old and joined Zip Zap Beginners in 2019. She has made some great new friends at circus and calls them her “special circus friends.” When she first started at Zip Zap she was very shy. Her fondest memory is from her first day, when a boy invited her to join in. He encouraged her not to be shy and now he is her best friend. Maddison has blossomed at circus since then.
Her favourite circus skill is trapeze. She dreams of becoming a good trapeze artist, a chef and a painter. Maddison is also very proudly learning to juggle!
“Learning trapeze has helped me cure my fear with courage.”
Shyleen was born in Malawi and moved to South Africa to live with her father, Mark. He was a gymnast in his youth and attended one of Zip Zap’s adult classes. Mark was instrumental in introducing Shyleen to Zip Zap.
Shyleen joined the Beginners programme in 2019 and, because of her extraordinary enthusiasm and motivation, she advanced to Simunye in 2020. She has a special love and talent for acrobatics and contortion, and really shines out in classes! She was saddened that classes were suspended during the national lockdown due to Covid-19.
Nevertheless, Shyleen has made a special effort to keep practicing and has been an incredible inspiration to others as she continues to send videos and pictures to her peers in the Simunye programme. One day, she wants to travel the world as a performer.
“It is very important to persevere and never give up! We must stay strong, respectful and disciplined. These are qualities I have learned from Zip Zap.”
Thea Haywood is 15 years old. She first joined Zip Zap in 2015, when she was just 10 years old. At the time her mother worked at the Cape Town Multi Service Centre and she saw the great progress that other Zip Zappers, Trompie and Remember, were making so she enrolled Thea into the beginner classes.
She re-joined Zip Zap in 2018 again and absolutely loves it. She enjoys the mini-trampoline and the fact that everyone is super-friendly.
Personally, Thea dreams of the world becoming a safer place, of a greener environment and of more facilities like Zip Zap all over.
“I don’t know what I would do without Zip Zap because I have learned so much and it keeps me busy in a positive way. My dream is to join the Zip Zap professional team and to perform with them locally and abroad.”
– Thea Haywood
Shaunwin is a 16-year-old learner at Florida School of Skills. He joined the Jumpstreet programme in 2017. He faced challenges at school because he was a resident at SOS Children’s Village.
It was very difficult for him to cope with peer pressure: his friends at the Village had very different interests and he found himself sacrificing his interests to satisfy friends: if they did not attend workshops at Zip Zap, he felt pressured not to attend either.
However, he persevered and continued to attend the workshops. His instructors report that he has natural leadership qualities and has displayed great progress on the scarf act. He quotes them as his role-models. Shaunwin’s proudest moment is the first show he performed in as part of the Jumpstreet programme. His aspirations while at Zip Zap is to be the best in the programme and to be the best teacher to other kids! His dream for the world is that every child be given an opportunity to do what they are good at.
“To be a good role model to my siblings and other kids, and to have a career that will help me to provide for them and take them out of SOS.” – Shaunwin
It was love at first sight for Ayanda when he saw his first Zip Zap show at the Waterfront in 2009.
He enjoys everything they do at Zip Zap and discovered his passion for mini tramp and the unicycle. His favourite memory was learning to do a double front summersault on the mini trampoline, it was so exciting and felt amazing! The instructors are his role models as they are always helpful with new tricks and encourage him to do better.
Ayanda also shared another of his talents with Zip Zap by doing all the beautiful illustrations in our children’s story book ‘I Can Fly’. All proceeds from our book benefit Zip Zap programmes. Ayanda is now 19 years old and enjoys sewing and fashion design.
“There are lots of problems in the world. I would change all the violence and hate to make the world a better place. My personal dream is to perfect the three-man unicycle act so that I can tour the world with my friends.”