Zip Zap star heads to France to study

Saskia van Rensburg relaxes at her Hout Bay home.

Hout Bay resident and one of Zip Zap Circus’s show-stopping performers, Saskia van Rensburg, is heading to France later this month, but not before she spends one last memorable weekend with her beloved “circus family”.

The 19-year-old trapeze artist, part of the Van Rensburg family who formed Zip Zap Circus 26 years ago, will be studying politics at Sciences Po university (Paris Institute of Political Studies).

Zip Zap Circus has become internationally renowned for inspiring young people and helping build a culture of peaceful coexistence in South Africa.

The Zip Zap children have performed for presidents and world leaders, including former US
president Barack Obama. Children from areas like Khayelitsha and Imizamo Yethu, who began as 6 year olds swinging from a trapeze tied to a tree, are now professional performing artists working in Europe and North America.

Having been brought up in this environment by hard-working mother Laurence Esteve and father Brent van Rensburg, she hopes her tertiary education at the prestigious institution will
equip her with the political know-how to make a real difference in terms of youth development and education on her return to South Africa.

Only days before her departure for France, Ms Van Rensburg will be concluding the run of Journey Beyond, Zip Zap Circus’s second collaboration with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra in as many years.

The former Llandudno Primary and Reddham House Atlantic Seaboard pupil reflected on growing up with her “crazy circus family”.

“My parents always brought me along to the circus, but I didn’t really take it seriously until I was 11 years old. At the time it wasn’t something I thought I would do. Then, when I turned 12, I decided the circus was for me,” she said.

“My first speciality was ground acrobatics, but then I broke both my legs. That was when I decided being in the air was for me, and it quickly became my passion.”

She has not looked back since, and still loves the combination of “excitement, nerves and adrenaline” that comes from performing in front of a large audience.

With sister Sabine also following in the footsteps of their parents, all family members were “in on the act”, so to speak, travelling all around South Africa and to many parts of the world.

As she’s become older, Ms Van Rensburg has started to play a greater role in the administrative side of the circus.

“I don’t only train on my own or with my team, but since I’ve got my driver’s licence I’ve also been playing taxi, fetching and carrying kids to and from all parts of Cape Town. Every day, my parents have had to work hard, and that’s something I’ve learnt from them.

The work day doesn’t end after 5pm. But it is our passion, so it doesn’t feel like work.”

While performing for audiences brings its own rewards, what she loves most about the circus is the togetherness it has brought among people from different backgrounds.

“The perspectives I’ve got on life through Zip Zap Circus I wouldn’t have got anywhere else. All the kids play together, and everyone appreciates one another no matter where they’re from.

The kids take home the values that are taught at the circus, such a respect for others. They are my extended family. “

Ms Van Rensburg is incredibly grateful to her parents for the opportunities they have given to her, least of all the chance to study in France.

“There is a strong emphasis on African politics at the university, which is my interest. I’m not sure I want to dive into politics when I come back; rather, I will use
what I’ve learnt to focus on education and development of the youth.
I am nervous, but I am used to working under pressure.

“My parents always made sure I never stayed in my comfort zone.

“I am just glad that I will be able to spend my last weekend in South Africa with my circus family. Though Zip Zap also
has a tour to France in September, so
I’am looking forward to seeing everyone over there as well.”