Human Journey

Visual Diaries: Bahia’s Circo Picolino

This post is the latest in the series Kike Calvo’s visual diary as a National Geographic Expert on the Buenos Aires, Rio and Brazil´s Wild Coast National Geographic Explorer. Dreams of the World: One Dream a Time.  Dreams of the World, which profiles interesting people Kike meets during his travels.  

Escola Picolino de Artes do Circo. Bahia (Brazil) Photo © KIKE CALVO
Escola Picolino de Artes do Circo. Bahia (Brazil) Photo © KIKE CALVO


“I love the circus because it enables me to be any character I want to be. I can fly, I can be a magical creature, I can be whoever I chose to when I perform,” said Raphael Souza, a 26-year old instructor at Picolino Circus School who started as a student since an early age. “My dream is to buy a home and that is the reason why I have always worked so hard to master the art of circus. I will fulfill my dream one day.”

Exploring Salvador de Bahia beyond the Pelourinho historic district, we came across The Escola Picolino de Artes do Crico, the first circus school with a strong social mission founded by artists in Brazil.

For about 30 years, the Picolino school has been providing opportunities for children and teenagers from low income neighborhoods to become part of the magic of circus. Functioning as a traditional circus family, joining the circus is far more than an extracurricular activity for kids. Picolino builds community, encourages leadership, teaches discipline, strengthens self-esteem and inspires trust and team work.

Kids join Picolino as young as five years old and usually remain in the circus for many years. While attracting and retaining students is not always easy, those who persevere develop skills that open up professional opportunities within and beyond Picolino.

Funding is also a perennial struggle for Picolino. A storm recently destroyed their main tent and they have been performing on a temporary structure. Yet tenacious as the children and founders are, they launched a fundraising campaign on the day of our visit. Despite any struggles, the show must go on.

Escola Picolino de Artes do Circo. Bahia (Brazil) Photo © KIKE CALVO
Escola Picolino de Artes do Circo. Bahia (Brazil) Photo © KIKE CALVO


Escola Picolino de Artes do Circo. Bahia (Brazil) Photo © KIKE CALVO
Escola Picolino de Artes do Circo. Bahia (Brazil) Photo © KIKE CALVO


Escola Picolino de Artes do Circo. Bahia (Brazil) Photo © KIKE CALVO
Escola Picolino de Artes do Circo. Bahia (Brazil) Photo © KIKE CALVO


Escola Picolino de Artes do Circo. Bahia (Brazil) Photo © KIKE CALVO


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Learn More About the Circus:

The Circus Book, 1870s-1950s

The Circus Age: Culture and Society under the American Big Top

The Greatest Show on Earth: The History of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus

The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journey into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present

How to Ride a Unicycle

Learn More About Brazil:

Brazil: National Geographic: Adventure Map (National Geographic: Adventure Map (3401))

National Geographic Traveler: Brazil

National Geographic Countries of the World: Brazil

National Geographic Traveler: Rio de Janeiro

Brazil Executive [Tubed] (National Geographic Reference Map)

Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form: History, Philosophy, and Practice

Capoeira: Roots of the Dance-Fight-Game


Award-winning photographer, journalist, and author Kike Calvo (pronounced key-keh) specializes in culture and environment. He has been on assignment in more than 90 countries, working on stories ranging from belugas in the Arctic to traditional Hmong costumes in Laos. Kike is pioneering in using small unmanned aerial systems to produce aerial photography as art, and as a tool for research and conservation. He is also known for his iconic photographic project, World of Dances, on the intersection of dance, nature, and architecture. His work has been published in National Geographic, New York Times, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair, among others. Kike teaches photography workshops and has been a guest lecturer at leading institutions like the School of Visual Arts and Yale University. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic blog Voices. He has authored nine books, including Drones for Conservation; So You Want to Create Maps Using Drones?; Staten Island: A Visual Journey to the Lighthouse at the End of the World; and Habitats, with forewords by David Doubilet and Jean-Michel Cousteau. Kike’s images have been exhibited around the world, and are represented by the National Geographic Image Collection. Kike was born in Spain and is based in New York. When he is not on assignment, he is making gazpacho following his grandmother’s Andalusian recipe. You can travel to Colombia with Kike:

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