We celebrate World Puppetry Day on March 21 every year. This day aims to recognize puppetry as a global art form. It is also an attempt to pay tribute to and honor puppeteers from around the world. The World Puppetry Day was established in 2003 by UNIMA — Union Internationale de la Marionnette. UNIMA is a non-governmental organization affiliated with UNESCO and it was their initiative to use this day not only to promote puppetry arts but also to create a space for the puppet actors to come together. This day seeks to maintain and safeguard the traditions of the art of puppetry.
History of World Puppetry Day
Historians claim that puppets were born before theatre actors. Even before putting actual people on stage, these inanimate actors were doing a great job of entertaining a wide range of audiences from different parts of the world.
In India, the origin of puppetry was traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization in 2500 B.C. Archaeologists had found a terracotta doll with a detachable head capable of being manipulated by a string. Many Indian Classical texts like the “Ramayana” and “Mahabharata” also mention puppets. China, Japan, and Taiwan also had their versions of puppetry.
In ancient Greece, old written records found in the works of Herodotus and Xenophon state that puppetry was in practice since the 5th century B.C. These Greek plays had puppetry shows performed in front of the common people and European puppetry was inspired by this. There is also archaeological evidence of puppets in Egypt in 2000 B.C. During this period, figures of wood operated by string by humans to demonstrate the actions such as kneading bread.
In the 16th century, the traditional British “Punch and Judy” puppetry originated from the Italian commedia dell’arte (an earlier theatre form). This show became very popular among the masses and was performed with various alterations till the 19th century.
In 1929, the Union Internationale de la Marionnette (UNIMA), or International Puppetry Association, was established in Prague. This organization was made to spark a resurgence of puppetry and help puppeteers show off their art form and connect with other like-minded artists. UNIMA centers have since been created in several parts of the world.
World Puppetry Day timeline
Archaeologists uncover a terracotta doll with a detachable head manipulated by a string.
Evidence shows wooden puppets in Egypt demonstrating the action of kneading bread.
Written records in the works of Herodotus and Xenophon suggest puppet shows are performed for the masses.
UNIMA sparks puppetry in the modern world.
World Puppetry Day FAQs
What is the most famous puppet?
Kermit is the most popular puppet of all time. Kermit has appeared on various television shows, like “The Muppet Show” and even “The Tonight Show.”
Who was the first puppet animator?
Aleksandr Shiryaev was the first puppet animator. He was the ballet master of Saint Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater and created the world’s first puppet animation film in 1906.
How much does a puppet cost?
A custom-made puppet usually costs around $500 to $1,500. Several materials are used just to make one puppet and a lot of labor time goes into its production.
How To Celebrate World Puppetry Day
Watch a puppet show
If you have never seen a puppet show before, then now is your time! Find any puppet shows online or in your area and go grab a seat.
Donate, donate, donate
You can extend financial support to the local puppeteers by donating to funds or puppet revival organizations. It’s never too late to show up for a good cause.
Read about the art form
There are several books and online material about the art of puppetry. Travel back as far as 2000 B.C. to learn all about how this art form originated.
5 Fascinating Facts About Puppets
Water puppets are a thing in Vietnam
Inspired by Vietnamese rice fields, these puppets tell tales of the culture and tradition.
A puppet theater in water
The water puppets are four feet above the water with rods making them sway gracefully.
The biggest puppet animation film ever made
This film used stop-motion animation and required 1,500 handmade puppets.
Marionettes are the most common puppets
String puppets or Marionettes, where the dolls are controlled by strings, are most common.
Life-size Bunraku puppets in Japan
Wood-carved puppets are as big as humans with operators dressed in all black for drama.
Why We Love World Puppetry Day
It is a dying art form.
With the boom of technology and O.T.T. platforms, going to the theatre to watch puppet shows is fast becoming a thing of the past. This day exists to remind us that puppetry is extremely unique and needs to be appreciated more.
Entertainment breaks barriers
Traditional puppetry is mainly demonstrated by performance and movement on the stage, you don’t need to necessarily know the language in order to understand it. This form of entertainment transcends all kinds of cultural and linguistic barriers.
It makes people happy
The reason this day is celebrated all over the world is because puppetry makes people happy. It transports us back to our childhood where we too played with inanimate dolls and gave them personalities.
World Puppetry Day dates