Travel Sector Updates

Returns of Puppet Shows Delight Pagoda Festival Revellers

ေကာင္းမႈေတာ္ဘုရားပြဲေတာ္မွာ ကျပႏိုင္ေရး တီးလံုးတိုက္ေနၾကစဥ္။ Photo - Sithu Lwin

Along with a pagoda festival in Myanmar’s Sagaing Region, there will be two overnight puppet shows on November 21-22. Such authentic cultural shows have not taken place since 11 years back.

The shows are set to stage on a plot of glebe land, which has been years previously reserved for such shows led by late senior marionette artist Shwebo U Tin Maung, in the fencing around the Kaung Hmu Taw Pagoda in the Region’s capital Sagaing.

To host shows successfully, preparation activities – of singing, crying, dialogue, and performing – are well underway at the Myanmar Marionette Theatre in Mandalay.

Among the marionette dances as a rule are of chorus ladies, monkey, horse, ogre, Ko Gyi Kyaw (drunkard), royal page boys, romance, and U Shwe Yoe and Daw Moe, which are usually followed by dramas of Jataka stories like Vidooya and Saddan Elephant.

“Due to a 11-year disconnect of the shows, the number of those who are well-versed in marionette performances has been found much limited. It is a challenge to organize performers now,” said a marionette artist Daw Ma Ma Naing of Mandalay Marionette Theatre.

“We’ve planned to keep the audience enjoying the performances of Myanmar traditional music and magic shows, before hosting puppet shows later,” Daw Ma Ma Naing said.

There are only two artists, who have inherited the art of performing marionette shows from the then popular artist Shwebo U Tin Maung, namely U Pann Aye, an 87-year-old marionette string artist, and Shwebo Kyi, a 69-year-old woman artist well-versed in singing, crying and dancing.

However, only Shwebo Kyi will perform at the pagoda festival shows planned to host.

“I am rather aged. It’s a challenge to my health. Yet, I have no choice but to rise to the challenge, performing the shows,” said Shwebo Kyi.

Hosting dramas of Jataka stories like Vidooya and Saddan Elephant were not so difficult, she said, adding that the techniques and practices were well rooted in her heart.

As well, U Pann Aye pronounced he longed much for the art, despite the fact that his age could not allow him to take part in the planned shows.

Marionette shows were essential ingredients in pagoda festivals long ago.

Overnight marionette shows have not taken place in pagoda festivals for more than 20 years now.

“That’s because such shows have been forced to pave the way for non-dramatic performances, bi-scopes, plays, and musical stage shows, in the wake of Shwebo U Tin Maung’s death,” said Daw Ma Ma Naing.

“And,I feel much delighted at the returns of marionette shows over recent years,” she said.

Recounting the records of marionette shows, Daw Ma Ma Naing said of the origin of the art that the term ‘marionette string artists’ was found only at the year 1444 (15th century).

Also, she has refuted an academic claim that the art of performing marionette shows, which was called ‘Myanmar’s royal art’ in consecutive dynasties as well, originated in the 11th-century Bagan dynastic era.

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Sithu Lwin is a freelance writer and a photographer, having worked for the Myanmar Consolidated Media Co. Ltd for 15 years. He has ever written many news articles and travel features, a lot of stories on government business and urban affairs for the company's flagship newspaper The Myanmar Times. As well, Sithu Lwin wrote about food and drugs for both English and Myanmar editions of the paper. On the sideline, he worked as a photographer for Now magazine, another publication of the media company, coming up with photographs of models' activities and art events for it. Based in Mandalay, he was also a staff member with the distribution unit of the company, before he jumped on the bandwagon of its editorial team in early 2011.


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