To say that the state of our climate was one of the key talking points of 2019 would be quite the understatement. Indeed, young people across the globe have been following the example set by activist Greta Thunberg in drawing attention to some of the most pressing issues facing the environment as we look to the 2020s – including through the medium of puppetry.
As reported by Reuters, students in Indonesia have been putting on puppet shows with a difference, using plastic items to construct compelling characters that bring traditional tales to life.
The puppeteers are schoolchildren from the Indonesian island of Lombok, and have been taking their show on the road to the country’s capital, Jakarta, to generate awareness about the environmental issues that we are likely to be speaking about and dealing with to an ever-greater extent in the years to come.
A call for the responsible management of waste
Abdul Latief established Lombok’s first puppet school in 2015, to help to ensure the island would benefit from a new generation of puppeteers.
He commented: “Small amounts of waste that we are hoarding in our homes can become a ‘big ghost’. It can fill the guts of dead whales, and get stuck in the noses of dead turtles at sea. Therefore we encourage people to resolve waste issues in their own homes.”
He added that the whole community could benefit from households responsibly managing waste such as plastic bottles, cups, cutlery and bags.
Adding to Indonesia’s already-impressive puppetry tradition
It was only last year that Latief’s troupe even began to make puppets from plastic waste. However, it is a fascinating practice in a part of the world that already has a strong tradition of shadow puppetry, known as wayang kulit.
This method of disposing of plastic waste provides educational material for largely child-dominated audiences – although with the puppeteers themselves mostly ranging in age from about seven to 16, it is young people who are largely leading the change, too.
The schoolchildren collect and sort through their local neighbourhood waste to find material for their puppets, washing plastic containers and painting faces on paper cups, followed by the use of bamboo sticks to assemble the figures.
In the words of one plastic puppet artist, Fitri Rachmawati: “For us, this is fun and we hope this can benefit many people and have an impact on our environment, the world’s environment.”
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