Giant Puppets of Kinshasa

This past March, Snuff Puppets worked in Africa for the first time in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kinshasa in the suburb of Masina, living and working at a cultural centre, Espace Masolo. The centre runs art and education programs for street children, orphans, ex-child soldiers and adults. The space houses a sewing and tailoring school and is the home to Fanfare Masolo, an exceptional brass band made up of young adult musicians who have grown up at the space over the last twelve years learning music and other skills.

We arrived expecting just to meet our fellow artists and performers, and maybe make one or two puppets with a very small presentation at the end. Instead, overwhelmed by enthusiasm to participate and learn, we ended up making six giant puppets that paraded on the main street with more than thirty participants, occupied neighbours front yards and danced all the while to a twenty-piece brass band. Initially, the aforementioned performance had to be postponed because exactly as we were to begin, the clouds opened and a downpour turned our stage into a muddy river. Plans changed to use the small courtyard of Espace Masolo as our stage but in true Congolese spirit, the finale happened back out on the road now made of vast pools of water, mud and rocks. Despite the conditions a beautiful dancing carnival erupted on Espace Masolo’s street and everyone was truly surprised and enchanted.

Leading up to this presentation, over eight days we built puppets with locally sourced materials and for the first time ever ran a workshop without electricity, barring the last night when we had a generator to heat up the glue guns and power the light. The puppets were all hand stitched together; the sewing machines were hand powered.

The learning curve was great and wild for both the participants and us. For Stéphane and me, we felt happily challenged to work in this way, without electricity and sometimes without water, on a fraction of a usual budget. For the participants, the collaborative workshop and giant puppet construction was a whole new learning experience. Despite challenges, we were grateful to meet so many amazing and talented people working together to perform a beautifully pure, raw and energetic performance of an act that we’d just made the day before and never fully rehearsed.

In our time at Espace Masolo we built Mamiwata, Satonge, Mengumengu, Kimakaka and Nguvbu (respectively a mermaid, a half man, a human/cat transformation, a person with their head on their stomach, a ‘something’, the white one with three eyes and a Hippopotamus). The puppets are drying out for now but will soon be traveling to Germany appearing with Fanfare Masolo and our Human Body Parts at festivals in Berlin and Moers.

This project would not have been possible without the invitation and support of Stefanie Oberhoff and Freundeskreis. Steffi saw the first brass instruments donated to Espace Masolo and has been deeply involved there with many projects over the years. She has watched and worked to make happen huge growth, great international exchange and the power of culture and art to transform lives. There is now a whole new generation of survivor children learning brass music, theatre, art, metal work, tailoring, school subjects and life skills.

I knew nothing of the DRC before I travelled there. I only knew of the Australian Government travel warnings of a ‘do not travel’ country and the monstrous history of the Belgian colonial empire, King Leopold the 2nd of Belgium and the ensuing genocide. Before arriving, I discovered that the DRC is one of the most, if not the most devastated country in the world as a result of colonialism. After the Belgian horror show, the slave trade, then independence and 30 years of dictators corrupting an already brutalised people, it is no wonder the country faces so many challenges.

Experiencing first hand what it means to live in the capital city of the second biggest country in Africa meant understanding the stark contradictions inherent in a country with the richest of natural resources on the planet and the lowest average income in the world according to the World Bank, with most people living on just 1 dollar a day: where there’s no government services and still wealthy countries and businesses regularly steal precious minerals for electronics like our iPhones. The country’s past can help understand why the nation suffers such devastation to this day. A terrible history that has resulted with a population traumatised from generations of European brutality with no reparations and no real global understanding or response to a horrendous human disaster.

Our journey has just begun in the DRC and our hopes and aspirations are high. Invigorated and inspired we’re planning to return to Espace Masolo to continue running workshops and create more giant puppets, music and art in collaboration with the kids, people and energy of Kinshasa, Congo.

Just two last thoughts to finish. First, the local slang for ‘cool’ is ‘normal’ so when everything is ok, good or fine, it’s ‘normal’, quite a departure from our version of mundane normalcy!

Finally, while visiting the orphanage that sends some of the kids off each day to Espace Masolo, we were struck by the words of Papa Api Kapinga, the old man who ran the home. He said, ’Politics pulls everyone apart, culture brings everyone together.’ For this elderly gentleman, who has given his life to saving others, to be so right in his description of humanity filled me with renewed faith in the fact that culture can truly save the world.

Andy Freer

View photos from the performance on our facebook page.

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Snuff Puppets are going to Africa!

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Snuff Puppets will tour to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in March to create a giant puppet spectacle with Congolese youth brass band Fanfare Masolo. The spectacle will be performed in front of the Brandenburg Gate at Berlin’s Kirchentag Festival in May.

Partners + Supporters: Stefanie Oberhoff and Freundeskreis, Espace Masolo, Cultural Council of the City of Stuttgart, Goethe-Institut Munich, Goethe-Institut Kinshasa, Brot für die Welt, Kulturamt der Stadt Stuttgart and Fachbereich Jugend & Freizeit der Stadt Wuppertal.

Image: Sella Oneko

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Everybody on Film by Paulo Barbuto

Snuff Puppets’ gigantic show Everybody had its international premiere last month as part of Australia Now and Virada Cultural in São Paulo.

Our ten artists: Katrina Chandra, Daniell Flood, Andy Freer, Stéphane Hisler, Mitch Jones, Lachlan Plain, KT Prescott, Rebecca Rutter, James Wilkinson and Nick Wilson, and the world’s largest puppet performed for crowds of thousands in Brazil for Virada Cultural May 21-22, São Paulo’s non-stop, free, 24 hour party all over the city.

These images by Paulo Barbuto courtesy of Australia Now capture some of Everybody’s giant Brazilian adventure.

Snuff Puppets Everybody Sao Paulo Virada Cultutral Paulo Barbuto Fotografia

 

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Snuff Puppets at Open House Melbourne

Snuff Puppets welcome you into their home for Open House Melbourne 2016

Open House Melbourne 2016 Snuff Puppets Studio Image by Theresa Harrison

Snuff Puppets will open the doors of their workshop, which holds in excess of 500 giant Snuff Puppets. Be introduced to some of the giant puppets created and stored in the Drill Hall and hear about the radical, experimental history and philosophy of Footscray’s Snuff Puppets. Brave visitors will be given the chance to get inside some of our giant puppets and practice puppeteering skills under supervision. Vagabond Coffee will be serving delicious hot drinks and baked goods out of their lovingly restored 1976 vintage caravan.

Footscray Drill Hall was built in 1913 to facilitate compulsory military training for men and boys, 12 to 26 years old. Dozens of Footscray locals volunteered at the Drill Hall and these men became E company, one of the first companies sent into battle in WW1. Soon they would find themselves in one of Australia’s bloodiest battles at Gallipoli. Most of the company of 250 did not return and Footscray became a city in mourning. Today the Footscray Drill Hall is an important arts space for the inner west, with two vibrant companies in residence, Snuff Puppets and Women’s Circus.

The Drill Hall, 395 Barkly St, Footscray VIC 3011
Saturday 30 July
Tours at 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm
FREE

BOOK NOW

VagabondBusiness Card Front 75x50 Coffee will be serving delicious hot drinks and baked goods out of their lovingly restored 1976 vintage caravan. On the menu you will find their fine coffee next to some beautiful tea and hot chocolate as well as pastries, cookies, muffins and tasty savoury treats.

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Snuff Puppets or taxes? It’s end of financial year!

It’s the end of financial year and you know what that means: we’re asking you to give us your money (instead of to the tax man). We need your help so that we can do what we do best – over the next 18 months we’re creating a new Snuff Puppets work The Garden of Sorrows.

We’ve created our first prototype puppet, a giant Thylacine, which appeared at NGV Australia late last year. Now we need to raise $10,000 for the next stage. With your help we’ll build a whole new world of puppets based on John Hughes and Marco Luccio’s haunting book and illustrations and through an intensive Creative Puppet Lab our artists, puppeteers and puppets will explore their new world together.

Snuff Puppets is a registered charity which means all donations over $2 are tax deductible.

WHY DONATE?
We celebrate creativity as an essential human need.
Every year we work with artists, community groups and people from all walks of life to tell their larger than life stories through giant puppets.
We take risks.
Our artistic program is ambitious and aims to make a profound impact on audiences. It takes a giant investment to create, build and breathe life in to every Snuff Puppet.
We support a team of individual artists and performers.
Snuff Puppets is a place for artists to grow, for ideas to evolve and for ambitious imagination to take flight.
We see things differently. We aim to challenge.
We are always a nuisance – poking fun, rebelling and irreverent. We reflect and challenge power with violent, sexy, vulgar disrespect.
We have new ideas. We collaborate.
We will soon be working on the next stage of creative development of our new work The Garden of Sorrows, collaborating with visual artist Marco Luccio and author John Hughes.
We do a lot on a little.
In 2015 we performed for over 100,000 people around the world and worked intensively with more than 300 community participants.

Donate to Snuff Puppets

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Pacific Gods at Federation Square for Light in Winter

This Saturday June 18, the Australia Pacific Arts Network‘s beautiful Pacific Gods will be celebrating the winter solstice along with four brand new puppets for Federation Square’s Light in Winter Festival.

Peau Kula

Limu, the Tongan God of Death is coming. Moana, goddess of the ocean, sends Lofa, the great frigate bird, as a warning. The water rises. Will Limu reign?

A roving puppet performance about global warming presented by Snuff Puppets and Australia Pacific Arts Network at Federation Square.

Light in Winter marks the longest night of the year with a feast of live music, art, performances and food.

Saturday June 18
5pm – 9pm
Federation Square, Melbourne
FREE

Images from The Light in Winter at Federation Square 2015.

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Everybody in São Paulo

viradacultural branded image

Snuff Puppets’ gigantic show Everybody, a piece that explores the one thing that all humans have in common: the human body, will have its international premiere this weekend as part of Australia Now and Virada Cultural.

Ten of our artists, Katrina Chandra, Daniell Flood, Andy Freer, Stéphane Hisler, Mitch Jones, Lachlan Plain, KT Prescott, Rebecca Rutter, James Wilkinson and Nick Wilson, and the world’s largest puppet are now heading to Brazil for Virada Cultural May 21-22, São Paulo’s non-stop, free, 24 hour party all over the city.

What better than a giant party for Everybody’s first international outing?

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This project has been assisted by the Australian government through the Ministry for the Arts’ Catalyst—Australian Arts and Culture Fund.

 

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