Puppets @ MOA

“Wood is stubborn,” artist, puppeteer and founder of The Old Trout Puppet Workshop, Judd Palmer, told us. “There are knots and grains that push back against the execution of your idea – real gravity, physics – which actually pushes you to discover solutions that shift the image, which means the process leads to surprises even for the creator.”

What makes for a compelling puppet? It’s “the sense that the character has some kind of secret,” Palmer goes on to explain. “It’s tough to define how you find that in the carving or the sculpting, but you know when you’ve found it.”

Right now, there is a compelling cast of puppets with all types of secrets at the Museum of Anthropology. This fascinating new exhibit – Shadows, Strings and Other Things. The Enchanting Theatre of Puppets – features more than 250 puppets, some old, some new, from 15 countries.

Curated by Dr. Nicola Levell – Associate Professor of Anthropology at UBC – you’ll find rod, string, shadow, hand and stop motion puppets. ‘Puppets are fabulous storytellers and previous knowledge holders,’ we read. They help in the passing down of cultural values, skills and stories from generation to generation.

‘Hands – twitching strings, manipulating rods, moving parts – bring puppets to life. The creative intimacy between the puppeteer and their puppet can dissolve the separation between the two. As energy flows – through veins and wires, flesh and wood, muscle and silicone – the enchantment begins and stories unfold.’

At Shadows, Strings and Other Things, you can read and watch short films about the global collection of puppets you’ll see. In the interim, a sneak peek  …

String Puppets

Opera Del Pupi Marionettes. Sicily. 
Medieval romances + epic stories of King Carlo Magno (Charlemagne, 742-814 CE)

Dancing Girl Rukada (String Puppet)
Mid 20th C. Galle, Sri Lanka. Maker unrecorded.

Late 19th/20th C. China
Maker unrecorded. 

Hand Puppets

Budaixi or Potehi (hand puppet)
Taipei, Taiwan. c 2010
Maker: Pili International Multimedia


Guignol marionette à main
Early 20th C. Lyons, France.
Maker: unrecorded


Punch and Judy Hand Puppets
Policeman + Doctor
Joey the Clown. Judy

2019, Axminster, Devon, UK
Makers: Alison and Brian Davey

Kathaputalee (Hand Puppets)
New Delhi, India. 1967
Makers: unrecorded

długwe’ (treasure)
Gwa’yi, Kingcome Inlet. British Columbia. 1981. 
Maker: Beau Dick
(Dzawada’enuxw, Kwakwaka’wakw)

Shadow Puppets


Wayang Kulit (Shadow Puppets)
Java. Indonesia

Stop Motion Puppets

Sabe + Biidaaban
Ghost Wolf
Maker: Amanda Strong
Spotted Fawn Productions

Rod Puppets

wayan golek (rod puppets)
20th Century, Java, Indonesia
Maker: unrecorded

Múa rôi nu’ó’c (water puppets, a form of rod puppets)
The Dance of the Princesses and Fairies
Traditional Water Puppetry Troupe of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
c 1990

Zhàng Tóu Mù Ou (rod puppets)
Guangdong, China. c. 1980-89
Maker: unrecorded

Shadows, Strings and Other Things. The Enchanting Theatre of Puppets runs at MOA until October 14th, 2019. Really unique and worth a visit.

Written by Elizabeth Newton


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Elizabeth Newton

Elizabeth Newton