String theory for Dharavi's residents

Snuff Puppets, a theatre group that combines elements of puppetry, live music and theatre to create art that is accessible, challenging, visually spectacular and politically incisive, is holding a two-week workshop with 25 residents of Dharavi to present Nukkad Item, a show that includes giant, dancing puppets.

“We were invited to bring our People’s Puppet Project (PPP) community workshop process to Mumbai. We have been running PPP workshops, globally, for 15 years now, with spectacular outcomes working with diverse communities, helping them to make their own giant puppet shows,” says Simeon Moran, executive producer, Snuff Puppets.

Learn with puppets
Presented as part of Oz Fest, the show by Snuff Puppets and Dharavi residents is locally produced by Divya Bhatia in collaboration with SNEHA (Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action) and supported by the Australia International Cultural Council (AICC), the Australia-India Council and the Maharashtra Nature Park.

Giant puppets like these will be part of the show presented by Snuff Puppets and Dharavi residents

The performance is being developed through a workshop conducted by Snuff Puppets, where young people will devise the narrative, design and build their own puppets. The workshop will produce a performance — part parade and part street theatre.

“The PPP workshop is a very intensive two weeks of creative dreaming, imagining, drawing, designing, puppet building, storytelling and performance making. And everyone gets to do everything! The PPP process is participant driven and is about putting them at the centre of the creative process,” explains Moran.

Skills for life
Explaining the philosophy behind Snuff Puppet’s PPP process, Moran says that it is about empowerment and creative expression. Participants develop new skills in theatre making and puppet building, but there is also something bigger at play. “We believe everybody is an artist at heart and has something worthwhile to express.

By openly participating in art making, participants are given an opportunity to express themselves. This can be transformative for individuals, particularly, for people without artistic backgrounds or who don’t think of themselves as artists. Even the shyest persons can overcome their anxieties and become a performer when hidden inside a giant puppet.”

Moran added that the process could be empowering for a community or a group, since they are given the opportunity to publicly express things that are important to them. “Snuff Puppets provide puppet building and theatre making techniques, but the creative content and process very much has the local participants at its heart. We are facilitating Dharavi residents to tell the stories they want to tell in giant puppet form,” she concluded.

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