International Puppet Festivals

The series of international festivals started with the 1st International Puppet Festival held in 1992. The other festivals by the same name were held in 1994,1996,1996,1998 and 2000, and later puppet festivals became part of the World Performing Arts Festivals.

Though traditional puppetry goes back a long way in this region the exposure to contemporary puppetry was limited. Some television shows, Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop, Alhamra Arts Council and Pakistan National Council of the Arts Islamabad had their own groups performing regularly but the international festival of puppetry was the first of its kind in the country. The international groups, as well as audiences, participated with great enthusiasm and the organisers were encouraged to make it a regular biennale. Since then puppet shows have been a regular feature of the festivals.

People in Pakistan generally associated puppetry with traditional storytelling and song and dance but the variety of puppets, styles of puppetry and themes that formed the puppet plays was mindboggling. These puppet plays were about serious contemporary issues and in some of the plays even actors participated, either playing a puppet or a character interacting with puppets. The puppets were string, hand, glove, water, life-sized or larger-than-life, shadow puppets, kabuki, rod puppets and muppets. The materials used in making the puppets too were extremely varied.

The festivals also dispelled the general impression that puppets are only meant for children because manly serious plays intended for adults were also held. The variety of languages, musical styles and forms of puppetry was amazing and exposed the people of Lahore to a mini world. The first festival also laid the foundation stone of UNIMA in Pakistan.