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September 18, 2019

Global showcase to feature Myanmar’s traditional puppets

Myanmar traditional marionette troupe performing a puppet show at theater in Yangon.—Photo: htweoomyanmar.com
Myanmar traditional marionette troupe performing a puppet show at theater in Yangon.—Photo: htweoomyanmar.com

Yangon, 16 March — Traditional marionettes from Myanmar will be on display at the world’s largest folk art exhibition this July in the United States.
The 12th International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe will celebrate living folk art traditions and create economic opportunities for folk artists worldwide, according to U Khin Maung Htwe, art director of Htwe Oo Myanmar Puppetry Home.
“The aim of participation is not to make a profit but to showcase our traditional art of puppetry,” U Khin Maung said in an interview on Sunday with the Global New Light of Myanmar.
He sees the exhibition as an opportunity to bring the country’s puppetry back to life, as the tradition has almost faded away.
“About 200 string puppets will be on sale at this year’s event,” he said.  “We do not fix higher prices for puppets. Last year, we did not break even.”
Recounting his experience from the past event, U Khin Maung Htwe said other than people who had visited Myanmar, few people had seen the country’s traditional puppets.
But most foreigners show interest in the country’s traditions, he said.  Some of them bought puppets and then learned puppetry techniques, with customers usually asking about the history of the art form, he added.
Myanmar has taken part in the market since 2013, giving local puppeteers a chance to exchange knowledge with artists from other countries and showcase Myanmar’s arts and culture.
Puppetry has traditionally been one of Myanmar’s most popular folk arts, and is commonly seen at pagoda festivals. Researches date the origin of Myanmar marionettes to the 1870s.
According to U Khin Maung Htwe, there are at most 20 professional puppeteers across the country and a few puppet-makers mainly in Yangon and Mandalay. He said unity among puppeteers is crucial to the survival of the art form.—GNLM

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