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Puppeteer Jim Henson and Kevin Clash always mentioned about the gift of storytelling. At a young age, they have paved their path to inspire people through the celebration and art of puppeteering. The people behind Papermoon Puppet Theatre are no different. The masters of the craft, Maria Tri Sulistyani and Iwan Effendi are the main founders of Yogyakarta-based troupe determined to address stories which are close to their hearts. Many of their stories became a voice and a social commentary to the forgotten pieces of history. Other times, it is the simple portrayal of human connection.

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On a sunny Wednesday afternoon in the month of October, Gabbie and I decided to dive into the craft and understand the process of creating our own human puppet guided by the masters sitting by our side.

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Held at the spacious Dia.Lo.Gue, we made our own puppets using the simple materials of rattan, newspaper, tape, scissors, webbing, and glue. The rattan is used as the skeleton of the body. We were taught if we wanted to make our own puppets at home, we would need to use thinner shoots of rattan which are bendable to make the structure of the ribs, hips, and each body parts. The head, palm, and feet are then made using crumpled newspaper which are placed over each other in repetition and taped over with white tape to hold it together. The webbing is used for the joints of the body creating movement to the whole body.

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The characters of the faces can be explored with finger punches or adding newspaper pieces over the faces to create the eyebrows, protruding cheeks or chin. But it all depends on the expression and personality we wanted our puppets to portray.

While the workshop was made to be done in a matter of three hours, some of us who were very into finalizing the final art form spent till late night munching, laughing, and being hands on in creating the puppet. This enjoyment of creating our own puppet is maybe the first step in bringing our puppets to life.

Text by Athina Ibrahim
Photography by Gabriela Bhaskar