The Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at UBC presents an immersive exhibition animated with light, sound, and moving images — Shadows, Strings and Other Things: The Enchanting Theatre of Puppets, on display from May 16 to October 14, 2019. Curated by Dr. Nicola Levell, an associate professor of museum and visual anthropology at the University of British Columbia and sought-after independent curator, this enchanting exhibition details the role puppetry traditions have played from generation to generation in the transmission of cultural knowledge, stories, and values around the world. Visitors will have the opportunity to view more than 250 handcrafted puppets drawn from MOA’s collection — the largest in Western Canada — plus, new acquisitions from China, Brazil, Italy, Java, the UK, and France revealed to the public for the first time.
In Shadows, Strings and Other Things, visitors are welcomed into a grand theatrical experience where five theatre stages demonstrate each main puppet type: shadow, string (marionette), rod, hand (glove), and stop-motion animation. Stages are framed by opulent curtains and lavish, hand-illustrated backdrops, and depict scenes from various puppet plays. The exhibition also offers a glimpse behind the scenes, with displays of workshop settings and storage spaces. Other extraordinary puppets are presented in glass cases, while video booths play moving pictures of different puppetry traditions from around the world.
The exhibition features a broad array of puppets from 15 countries in Asia, Europe, and the Americas, and spotlights works by artists who frame their cultural traditions through the lens of contemporary culture. Highlights of these superb new works include: the Lu Family’s vibrant and colourful shadow puppets, such as Mu Guiying, a female warrior character whose striking headdress incorporates two long pheasant feathers — a style inspired by traditional Chinese opera costumes; award-winning Indigenous artist Amanda Strong’s haunting stop-motion animation (Four Faces of the Moon, 2016) with a puppet and prop installation of Skull Mountain, composed of 1,000 handcrafted buffalo skulls; wayang kulit shadow puppets from Java, Indonesia, which are used in spectacular storytelling feats involving music, voice, and song that can last from midnight until dawn; and a newly commissioned hand puppet set of Punch and Judy, the beloved English slapstick tradition that dates back to 1662.
Many of the puppetry traditions on display are recognized and celebrated by UNESCO as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This exhibition spotlights how puppets dramatize the human experience in many parts of the world. Shadows, Strings and Other Things is a unique and magical opportunity for visitors of all ages to explore the historical and dynamic qualities of puppetry.
MOA presents Shadows, Strings and Other Things: The Enchanting Theatre of Puppets
Dates: May 16 to October 14, 2019
Opening: May 16, 2019 at 7pm
Address: Museum of Anthropology
University of British Columbia
6393 NW Marine Drive, Vancouver, BC
Photo by Alina Ilyasova, courtesy of Museum of Anthropology at UBC
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