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Egyptian artist popularises water puppets

Update: May, 20/2016 - 09:00
Water puppet show: Many Egyptian spectators enjoyed the Cairo Puppet Theatre performances. — Photo VNA Nguyễn Trường
Viet Nam News

Egyptian artist makes water puppets popular

CAIRO — Vietnamese water puppets are being introduced for the first time to the world, and it’s not by Vietnamese artists.

A water puppet show titled Isis and Osiris was performed by Egyptian artists from the Cairo Puppet Theatre at the Zamalek Sport Centre. The performance is based on a story from Egyptian mythology.

The unique performance has made a strong impression on the local spectators.

“I like the show very much because of its uniqueness -- an Egyptian story is being presented by a Vietnamese water puppet,” Noda Medhat, a spectator in Cairo, said. “I hope the special show will be performed at other places in Egypt.”

The three-year project between Egyptian and Vietnamese artists has borne fruit thanks to the efforts of Egyptian artist May Mohab.

“I’m happy that after eight years my dream has turned into a reality. I want to thank the Vietnamese embassy in Egypt, and in particular former ambassador Đào Thành Chung and present ambassador Đỗ Hoàng Long,” Mohab said.

“Vietnamese artists and students supported and helped a lot in my research and during the project.”

Water puppetry has the potential to develop in Egypt, a country of the Pharaohs with many mythological stories and epics related to the Nile River, according to Mohab.

Mohab is a set designer at the Cairo Puppet Theatre, one of the leading theatres in researching and preserving puppet art in Egypt. The artist began researching Vietnamese water puppets in 2008 for her thesis.

She was not satisfied with a document on Vietnamese water puppets, which was translated in Arabic, and wanted to learn how to handle puppets so that they could be used to present Egyptian stories.

She contacted veteran puppet artist Chu Văn Lượng who she regards like a second father. Lượng and other Vietnamese artists were convinced by Mohab’s passion for water puppets and agreed to teach her the technique.

The artist had a chance to attend the third International Puppet Festival in Việt Nam in 2012. It was the first time she watched a water puppet show.

In 2013, she participated in a workshop to make puppets with artists and artisans from the Thăng Long Puppet Theatre.

Her thesis on Vietnamese water puppets is highly appreciated. Not only it is a good resource introducing Vietnamese water puppets in detail, but it also suggests how Egyptians artists can combine Vietnamese traditional art with Egyptian stories.

Mohab has also contributed to promoting a co-operative project among Vietnamese and Egyptian theatres.

In the first phase of the project, with the direct help of two Vietnamese artist Vương Tất Lợi and artisan Duy Bằng, Egyptian artists have made 25 puppets symbolising the holy animals and the Pharaohs.

The puppets were displayed at the Egyptian Centre for International Culture Co-operation.

Vietnamese artists Hoàng Tuấn, Chu Văn Lượng and Thủy Tiên also came to Egypt to train 12 Egyptian artists on how to control the water puppets.

Isis and Osiris is the first water puppet show to be performed in Egypt, marking a milestone for the genre in Egypt in particular and in the Middle East region in general, Mohamed Nour, director of the Cairo Puppet Theatre, said.

“It is a special cultural event in Egypt,” he said at a press conference held at the Cairo Theatre on May 11.

He also said his theatre will tour and hold performances in other areas of Egypt in the future. — VNS

New performance: A water puppet show is performed for the first time by the Cairo Puppet Theatre. — Photo VNA Nguyễn Trường

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