Quite a (pup)pet, the world over

* JAPAN: Bunraku puppets are wood carved. They were made to stand out through torch illumination and combined with shamisen music at the end of the 16th century. Bunraku traditionally uses three puppeteers to operate a puppet that is 2/3 life-size.

* KOREA: In Korean, the word for puppet is ‘ggogdu gagsi’. ‘Gagsi’ means a bride or young woman, which was the most common form the dolls took. A ‘ggogdu gagsi’ puppet play has eight scenes.

* VIETNAM: Vietnam developed the art form of ‘mua roi nuoc’ or water puppetry. The puppets are made of wood and the shows are performed in a waist-high pool. A large rod under the water is used by the puppeteers to support and control the puppets. It looks as if the puppets are moving over water. The origin of this form of puppetry dates back 700  years when the rice fields would flood and the villagers would entertain each other, eventually resulting in puppet show competitions between villages.

* ITALY: Italy is considered the early home of the marionette due to the influence of Roman puppetry. Comedy was introduced to the plays as time went by, and ultimately led to a church edict banning puppetry. Puppeteers responded by setting up stages outside cathedrals and became even more ribald and slapstick. Out of this grew the Italian comedy called Commedia dell’arte.

* GREAT BRITAIN: The traditional British Punch and Judy puppetry traces its roots to the 16th century to the Italian commedia dell’arte. The character of Punch derives from the character Pulcinella, which was Anglicised to Punchinello. He is a manifestation of the Lord of Misrule. Punch’s wife was originally Joan, but later became Judy.

* AFRICA: Sub-Saharan Africa may have inherited some of the puppet traditions of ancient Egypt. Many African ethnic groups still use puppets in their healing and hunting ceremonies. In rural Africa, puppetry still performs the function of transmitting cultural values that in African cities is undertaken by formal education, films, books, and television.

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