Kenya Institute of Puppet Theatre (KIPT) held the 8th International Puppetry Festival Kenya 2016 the past week. The event which began October 15 was held in multiple locations in Kenya including select schools, The French Cultural Centre at Nairobi’s Alliance Française, the Kenya Cultural Centre at National Theatre and Machakos Peoples Park.
The puppetry fest has become one of the biggest art festivals in Kenya in recent years. This year, it attracted twenty international and professional puppet, object, figure and image theatre companies from all over the world such as; Mashu Mashu Puppet Theatre Company from Israel, Reefknot Communications Puppet Theatre Company – Uganda, Hungary/Polish and Kenya Collaboration performance titled – Tales of Freedom by Embassy of Hungary, Royal Puppet Theatre of Häme – Finland, Project Hands Up (USA) / Kenya Institute of Puppet Theatre / Newrobi (Kenya) – Collaboration South Africa and the Hosts Kenya – Will be presented by 3 professional puppet Theatre companies.
The organizers used this event to tell stories on social issues, to bring together different puppeteers so that they can share ideas and also train upcoming puppeteers on the skill sets required to be a professional puppeteer. With Kenya a year away from election, this festival was aimed to be a platform where the puppeteers would reach the audience and educate them on peaceful coexistence.
The festival acknowledges that puppetry and folk media are among powerful tools for engagement in peace and consensus building, the festival performances tried touched on the sharply corrosive tribal division that thrive during the election period.
The festival also highlighted the impacts of HIV/AIDS; one of the shows, Bali- educated the mass through sketches, audience participation experiences and led by a human host on stigma, respect and gender balance. Bali is a Kenyan comedy show which is mysterious and creative in the delivery and execution.
The KIPT event also brought to the fore the issues around conservation and extinction through the futuristic play ‘The Last Man Standing’ which takes place in 2070. The performance featured Mara- the bones of wildebeest and a letter written in 2010 by ‘Mask’ warning of the danger of climate change. In the showcase, Mara is the last bones of the wildebeest, tragically, all the wildebeest, which are an important part of Kenya’s Fauna, have long been wiped out.