Ha Noi (17/12) To commemorate one year of the establishment of the ASEAN Community as well as to celebrate and revive the “ASEAN” feeling, 30 puppeteers and musicians from 10 ASEAN Member States and guest artists from Japan gathered for a week-long-workshop in Ha Noi, Vietnam. It was the 10th ASEAN Puppets Exchange to work collaboratively on the “One ASEAN” Community performance. Through a series of exchanges from 9-17 December 2016, the artists learned about the traditional water puppet of Viet Nam, the shadow puppets of Cambodia and the long established traditional Burmese marionettes. They also explored ideas to produce a collaborative storyline that aesthetically captured the diversity of folk tales, puppets, dances, and music in the region.
In one week, the puppet artists successfully developed a plot, created new puppets, and worked on the stage and creative arrangements. Besides the puppet artists, musicians also came together to produce a music score to accompany the performance using various musical instruments.
“This workshop taught me to do things I have never done before, for example manipulation of the puppets. I also had a chance to get to know lots of new people, what it is like in their country, their culture and of course ASEAN puppetry art,” said AK MD Al-Muiz, a participating puppeteer from Brunei Darussalam.
Cooperation and collaboration is the backbone of the ASEAN Community was articulated in the storyline. Adapted from several folk tales of Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam, and other ASEAN countries, the story began when two farmers fought over a plot of land as they were planting rice. A wise man tried to mediate the dispute by telling them a traditional story about a Dragon Island. Through the folk tale, he conveyed a message that every problem could only be solved through respect, mutual understanding, and cooperation. A Vietnamese and Indonesian duet about coming together concluded the “One ASEAN” performance.
Ramolette Aina Ysabel Bonifacia, a puppet artist from the Philippines believed “the best part was when the final show unfolded and all of our hardships finally paid off. As well as when we bonded with other artists and gained new friends”.
Around 120 people watched the “One ASEAN” puppet performance which was showcased at the NHÀ HÁT MÚA RỐI VIỆT NAM- the National Puppet Theatre of Vietnam on 18 December at 8 pm (Ha Noi time). Pham Dinh Thang, Deputy Head of the Performing Arts Department under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism also attended the final performance.
The audience was impressed by the rich diversity of ASEAN art beautifully packaged in a 30- minute art performance by ASEAN artists. One of them was an undergraduate student at Hanoi National University of Education, Dan Phuong Anh. “This story conveys a message; only by peace, respect, and cooperation, we can move forward. It was admirable in the way the actors and actresses expressed the message. How professional they were. The wonderful folk song at the end, which restated the concept of the show: One ASEAN, truly impressed me,” said Dan Phunong Anh who has had interest in puppetry since she was a child.
The 10th ASEAN Puppets is a culmination of nine series of APEX exchange across Southeast Asia that started since 2014. With the support of the Japan-ASEAN Solidarity Fund administered by the ASEAN Foundation and implemented by Artsolute Ltd, the artist-to-artist exchange aims to promote ASEAN awareness through puppetry art as well as to provide a strategic platform for puppet artists in the ASEAN region to elevate their skills and knowledge not only as performers but also as productive artists who could contribute to developing ASEAN’s cultural heritage.