By M. Swift
Franz Taaibosch was a member of South Africa’s Korana group who was a servant in Kimberly, Northern Cape.
He became a part of the sideshow at a time when peoples below the average height were a big attraction in addition to displaying people from “exotic locales” (read: not from the Western World) in “educational” exhibitions.
Along with his height—he was said to be 4’3″—Taaibosch was also skilled in the traditional dance of the Khosian people. Promoter Captain Paddy Hepston who was in South Africa for years first in the military then as a farmer. He was intrigued by Taaibosch’s talent and saw dollar signs.
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Giving Franz Taaibosch the stage name Clico (or Clicko because of the clicking in Khoisan language), the finishing touch was the gimmick of a dancing wildman. His backstory as Clico was that Captain Hepston spotted Taaibosch in the Kalahari Desert chasing an ostrich. The “bushman” injured his leg in the chase and was taken in by Hepston who whipped him and trained Taaibosch to dance in six months’ time.
Taaibosch began performing in Europe first in England in 1913 and was dressed in animal furs as an added part of the gimmick.
While in England, Hepston’s treatment of Taaibosch was noticed. He would beat on his star attraction and prevent him from speaking in English. The Anti-Slavery and Aborigines’ Protection Society stepped in.
The Clico gimmick worked against its creator as Hepston was prevented from being the manager of Taaibosch. He was also stuck in the middle of a custody dispute over the possibly 40+ year old performer. Eventually, Hepston left the circus game and Frank Cook became Taaibosch’s manager.
In being managed by Cook, Clico began working for Ringling Brothers and other circuses. This would put his circus career around the same time as brothers Iko and Eko. While in the circus, he picked up English and the circus performers became his family.
This whole time, Cook was still recognized as his ward. Sometime prior to his retirement, Cook passed and his family became responsible for Taaibosch. He eventually retired in 1939 and passed in 1940.
M. Swift primarily writes on moments and important figures in Black history for Your Black World. He also writes heavily on wrestling, comics, gaming, and Black sci-fi and fantasy.