"Puppet on a String" - World Puppetry Day

21 March: Since 2003, World Puppetry Day is celebrated all over the world by performers and audiences of an ancient art form.
“Grace appears most purely in that human form which either has no consciousness or an infinite consciousness. That is, in the puppet or in the god.""Does that mean", I said in some bewilderment, "that we must eat again of the tree of knowledge in order to return to the state of innocence?""Of course", he said, "but that's the final chapter in the history of the world." (Heinrich von Kleist, “On the Marionette Theatre“)

Angel Zárraga’s (1886 – 1946) “La femme et le pantin“ (1909).

It’s a comforting thought that a unifying aspect of human culture is not the want to go for each other’s throats, xenophobia or nothing beyond a basic renunciation of instincts, but an achievement such as puppetry. Dolls made from clay or wood or bone or rags are at least as old as 4.000 years and the Ancient Greeks and Chinese had a form of putting puppets on a stage since the 6th century BCE. Most culture have developed a form of puppet theatre ever since, Persian hand puppets, Roman marionettes and the shadow plays from Asia known in India probably since the days of the Harappa civilisation about 2.000 BCE, Indonesia’s Wayang kulit or the Ottoman Karagöz. Most are perceived as a quasi-cultic rendering of mythical scenes with a strong religious flavour, but all are watched by old and young, probably with the same fascination and enthusiasm, since ages.

Francisco Goya "Pelele" (1791)

The European Middle Ages saw the comeback of the puppet theatre after the end of Antiquity and the most popular play at the dawn of Modernity in the 16th century was the legend of “Faust” and his pact with the devil and during the following decades, figures from stage plays or the commedia dell’arte, that were no longer en vogue, found a prolonged niche existence as puppets, while evergreens of the marionette theatre like Punch and Judy made their first appearance, still aimed at a mature audience. When society’s attitude towards childhood began to form along the lines of how we perceive it today in the wake of the Romantic movement during the 19th century, the puppet theatre slowly began to adapt itself towards a younger clientele and with the first children’s books, plays for children began to appear, and while the totalitarian systems of the first half of the 20th century experimented with the puppet theatre for adults, children and nostalgic grown-ups are usually the main audience for puppet plays today.

Felicien Rops: "La Dame au pantin et à l'éventail" (1873)

The idea of the World Puppetry Day was fathered by the Iranian puppeteer Dzhivada Zolfagariho in 2000 during the Congress of the Union Internationale de la Marionnette, (UNIMA) in Magdeburg, to celebrate the art of puppetry and remember that this ages old art form is far more than mere child’s play to this very day as the tradition continues to enchant, entertain and educate adults as well. The first World Puppetry Day was celebrated in 2003.

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