Indian Council for Cultural Relations
50 Years of ICCR
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ICCR presents the
International Puppet Festival
( October 2000 )
A decade after its ambitious International Puppet Festival in India (September 1990; 25 participating countries, presentations in 35 cities), the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) considers it opportune to once again present to audiences in India, albeit on a smaller scale (7 participating countries, presentations in eleven cities), this ancient-and-yet-still-evolving art form. The timing and the content of these presentations (between the festivals of Dussehra and Diwali) were also considered appropriate. Eminent puppeteers from Russia, Uzbekistan, Italy, Sweden, Myanmar, Vietnam and India are participating in this event which will also utilise audio-visual projections, interactions with/between the artistes and lecture-demonstrations.
Though the first puppets are thought to have been used in around 2500 B.C. in the Egyptian and Indus Valley civilisations, any detailed significant record is absent till several centuries later. One of the major factors for this was that puppetry, being essentially a folk art form and initially not supported by the courts and kings, was seldom recorded and maintained only by oral transmission from generation to generation. Puppets throughout the world have been used to great effect by entertainers, magicians, "witch doctors", educationists and reformers. Toys and dolls are often considered to be the ancestors of the puppet. Various languages have used terms for little girl/ little boy/ puppet almost interchangeably: puttali (Sanskrit), pupula (Latin), kore (Greek), bambola (Italian), lalka (Polish), puppe (German) and poupe'e (French). It is also interesting to note that the Greek word for puppets was "neurospasta" - from "nervus" meaning muscle, wire or string and "span" meaning to pull -and the word "sutradhar(a)" in India denoting the conductor of the theatrical programme ( who could be an actor or a puppet ) can be translated as "string puller" or "string holder".
One of the fascinating, almost magical aspects of puppetry is its liberating ability. By relinquishing responsibility for words and feelings to the puppet (a deft anthropomorphism by way of ascribing living qualities to it), the puppeteer is free to express himself more easily and effectively. A puppeteer thus needs to have a thorough understanding of history, religion, mythology, the performing arts, music, as well as politics, local biases and social priorities. Thus, while puppetry is a collective art with a high level of interactivity with the audience, it is, concomitantly, a medium highly dependent on the individual's personalised approach. In the present Festival, the ICCR has made an attempt to present some of these aspects of the fascinating world of puppets.