Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘puppets’

p06hrbyj

Photo: PjrTravel/Alamy
The act of building puppets has long been a form of protest for the Czech people.

Never underestimate the power of the arts to affect the course of nations. In this story, puppets kept the Czech language alive during a period of repression by German speakers.

Jacklyn Janeksela writes at the BBC, “It was thanks to the humble puppet that the Czech nation – and its language – was inadvertently saved.

“In the 17th Century, when the kingdom of Bohemia was under Habsburg rule, the Czech language almost disappeared. …

“When the Protestant court left Prague in the early 1600s, the city fell into decline for almost two centuries. The new ruler, Ferdinand II, did not tolerate non-Catholics, viewing Protestants as a threat to his faith. Czech locals, mostly peasants and working class people, were forced to speak the German language of their invaders. Soon after, intellectuals, who had initially resisted the German language, followed suit. Even Czech actors began to perform in German as an official mandate. Czech became a mere dialect, and would have slipped into oblivion had it not been for some unassuming pieces of wood.

“The act of building puppets has long been a form of protest for the Czech people. Seventeenth-Century wood-carvers, who were more versed in sculpting Baroque seats for churches than human facsimiles, started making puppets for the actors of Bohemia soon after Ferdinand II came to power, as puppets were the only remaining entities that had the right to speak Czech in public places. While the rest of the country and its people adhered to the newly imposed German language, wandering actors and puppet-masters spoke through the puppets in their native Slavic tongue.

“It might seem unlikely that a few hundred puppets and puppet-masters could safeguard a language, especially through a loophole, but the people’s last remaining legacy to their past was tied to the puppet’s strings.

“It’s easy to see why these marionettes have found a home in Czech hearts, and why the magic of puppets continues to permeate the city. …

“In the streets, puppeteers make magic happen. I watched a puppet show in a charming cobblestoned square, where the puppet-master wore the velvety cap of a pageboy, pierced by a single plume that swayed along with the puppet’s movements. He used his puppets to beckon bystanders. Melodic medieval music accompanied the dance of a peasant male and young princess, a Czech love story with a plot twist that favours the underdog, the peasant who wins the heart of a far-fetched royal love.” Read more at the BBC, here.

With minority languages threatened around the world today, it’s worth remembering that a culture and way of life can be preserved through arts like puppet-making. See also my blog post on the historically important role of shadow puppets in Armenia, here.

Photo: Carol J Saunders/Alamy
Puppets have a special place in the hearts of the Czech people. For one thing, they saved the language in the early 1600s when German-speaking rulers prevented everyone but puppets from speaking Czech in public.

p06hrc3s

Read Full Post »

shadow1

Photo: Narek Harutyunyan
Armenian shadow puppetry uses light and shadow to bring folklore to life. Going back to the 1300s, the art is being revived in a more child-oriented form today.

Throughout the centuries, people have used puppets to express ideas that would be hard to express directly. The oldest version of shadow puppetry in Armenia addressed religious and reproductive topics. In its revived form, shadow puppetry passes Armenian folklore to a new generation.

Allison Keyes reports at Smithsonian, “Behind a screen, puppets mounted on long, slim sticks dance and sway, twirling, backlit so that only their dark shadows appear, while puppeteers called Karagyoz players sing, provide sound effects and create voices for the characters. An interpreter translates, telling in English the Armenian stories like a libretto for an opera, so the audience will understand.

“The Armenian Shadow Puppet Theater, known as Karagyoz, was especially popular in the 18th century. But it has roots dating back to the 14th century, with shared sources in South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.

“ ‘They are oldest in Egypt and the countries of Maghrib, Greece and the Ottoman Empire,’ explains Levon Abrahamian, an anthropologist and a curator of the 2018 Armenia program at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. ‘Armenians were doing this in the Ottoman Empire because part of Armenia, Western Armenia, is now in Turkey.’

“Now, a new version of the Armenian Shadow Puppet Theater, called Ayrogi, is touring Armenia, staging modern performances reviving the traditions of the past. Ayrogi performed at this year’s Folklife Festival. … Some of the players travel by horseback, stopping to perform horse shows, songs, folk dances and shadow puppet shows.

“[Director Armen Kirakosyan says], ‘In Armenian theater, the puppets were colored in black, so it is a principle of shadow. The light comes from behind them in such a way that you have only shadows.’ Black and white, he says, has a far greater impact on the imagination, and the characters develop a much more menacing or hilarious presence in the minds of the viewers. …

“The stories Ayrogi tells now are for a general audience, and many are adapted for children. Modern shadow puppetry, Abrahamian says, is based on traditional folktales such as ”The Cat of Martiros.’ Martiros is a popular Armenian name meaning ‘martyr,’ and the theater company performs a series of tales about him.

“One story begins with a man who is content and free of troubles, says Kirakosyan in Armenian as Abrahamian translates. He laughs because the man’s life is about to get complicated.

“ ‘The man is complaining about this mouse, saying it is eating his shoes. . . People came and said, “We will help you,” giving him a cat. The cat solved the problem but created other problems, meowing, and the man says he can’t sleep. So the people say, “it is hungry, thirsty—give him milk!” But where would he get the milk? So they give him a cow to solve the problem. He had to have a field to have something for the cow to eat some grass. Lots of problems come, so they give him a wife! Now he has a lot of children, and when he is dying, he calls his eldest son, and tells him, “You can do anything you want, but never let a cat come to your house!” ‘ ”

More here.

Photo: Narek Harutyunyan
Armen Kirakosyan, director of the Ayrudzi horseback riding club and Ayrogi puppet theater, poses with shadow puppets.

shadow3

Read Full Post »

At the NY Times, Sindya N. Bhanoo notes some cool research on young children’s sense of fairness.

“Children as young as age 3 will intervene on behalf of a victim, reacting as if victimized themselves, scientists have found.

“With toys, cookies and puppets, Keith Jensen, a psychologist at the University of Manchester in England, and his colleagues [Katrin Riedl, Josep Call, and Michael Tomasello] tried to judge how much concern 3- and 5-year-olds had for others, and whether they had a sense of so-called restorative justice.

“In one experiment, when one puppet took toys or cookies from another puppet, children responded by pulling a string that locked the objects in an inaccessible cave. When puppets took objects directly from the children themselves, they responded in the same way.

“ ‘The children treated these two violations equally,’ said Dr. Jensen, a co-author of the study published in the journal Current Biology.

“In another experiment, when an object was lost or stolen, children tried to right the wrong by returning the object to the puppet it belonged to.

“ ‘Their sense of justice is victim-focused rather than perpetrator focused,’ Dr. Jensen said.” More at the NY Times, here.

The abstract for “Restorative Justice in Children” is posted at Cell.com.

Photo: Keith Jensen
Two puppets used in a study that aimed to learn how much concern young children have for others. 

Read Full Post »

We went to Honk! in Somerville today. A few uncomfortable-looking masons and many counterculture bands marched to Harvard Square. It was a hoot. So nice to see these offbeat ’60s types are still springing up. All is not lost! The name of one band may give you a sense of where they are coming from: The Extraordinary Rendition Band. The Institute for Infinitely Small Things joined forces with the Occupy Boston contingent.

Represented below are Nomad Rights (a Tibetan group), unions (including the Postal Service), Darfur activists, and the Puppeteers Co-operative.

  

Read Full Post »

Barefoot Books, the children’s book publisher, opened its retail store in Concord this past spring.

In addition to selling books, the shop offers storytelling and pottery every day and numerous other activities, like music, dance, and yoga for children. There is a puppet theater play area, a kitchen for food events, and toys. Note the list of August activities in the photo.

The neighbors, by and large, loved the way the company decorated this long-empty building. And they especially loved the new landscaping.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: