LAHORE, March 21: The seven-day eighth International Folk Puppet Festival opened at Rafi Peer Cultural Centre, Raiwind Road, on Monday amidst colours and music, celebrating the World Puppet Day.
On the opening day of the festival, live mascots adding colour and vibrancy to the venue were especially attracting a large number of schoolchildren who had come to attend the event.
Other activities at the festival include puppet display, an exhibition at the Museum of Puppetry and the performances by the folk puppeteers.
The festival has become an annual feature of the city’s cultural and entertainment scene, celebrating the best folk puppeteers of Pakistan and from around the world.
On the first day of the event, there was no international performance as foreign delegates were still arriving.
Eleven local groups comprising 22 folk puppeteers hailing from Bahawalpur, Multan, Lodhran, Duniyapur, Khanewal and a couple of other
cities of south Punjab have already reached the venue.
Muhammad Bashir, a senior local puppeteer, told Dawn that during their performances they would tell the folk tales their forefathers had been narrating for centuries such as the tale of King Akbar. These tales are further divided into different ‘sub-tales’ such as Patay Khan, BirBhal Wazir, Nakhloo Nawab, Amar Singh Rathor and other such tales.
Bashir said to add spice to their shows, the folk puppeteers include famous Punjabi and Urdu film songs in the performances. The women performers sang songs and play various music instruments, he added.
Jack Markussen, a puppeteer from Norway, in a brief chitchat with this correspondent said in Norway the history of puppetry did not go beyond 50 years. However, he added, the art form was getting popular, especially in the urban areas of the country.
Markussen has brought a performance called ‘Fly Habibi’ to the event. It’s a 30-minute performance having eight characters, all played by the puppeteer himself, with music in the background.
Rohana Tev and Wijesiri Ganwari, two string-puppeteers from Sri Lanka, have also reached Lahore to perform in the festival. Their performance would be based on Lord Buddha’s stories backed by folk music.
Mr Tev told this correspondent that most of the puppeteers in Sri Lanka are from south of the country. He said he was participating in the festival for the fifth time.
Faizan Pirzada, president of the festival, said its objective was to safeguard and promote the tradition of live performance as well as raise awareness among the public about the versatility of the folk puppet tradition, specifically educating the younger generation about classical art forms.
Mr Pirzada said the festival helped preserve the dying art of folk puppetry, besides entertaining the young and adults alike.