Burmese Puppet Troupe Triumphs at International Festival

By San Yamin Aung 12 November 2014

RANGOON — The Burmese marionette troupe Htwe Oo Myanmar has been honored with the Best Puppet Animation award at the Harmony World Puppet Carnival in Thailand, one of world’s most renowned puppet festivals.

The group was presented the award along with 12 other award winners among more than 160 puppet troupes on Monday, at the closing ceremony of the carnival, which was held in Bangkok from Nov. 1-10.

“I didn’t expect to win the Best Animation award,” Khin Maung Htwe, director of Rangoon-based Htwe Oo Myanmar, told The Irrawaddy. “I am really happy and I feel great for our country, Burma’s puppetry and also for my group for winning an award on the world’s largest puppet stage.

“It is the award that is given for the puppet that looks alive, like the cartoon characters in animation films,” he added.

Khin Maung Htwe said he was pleased with the troupe’s handling of its preparations for the competition.

“The judges said our puppets are as natural as if they were alive,” he said.

He said his group’s one-hour performance included a variety of traditional Burmese choreographed dances and the telling of an abridged version of the Jataka tales, which are stories of the Buddha’s former lives.

The triumphant puppeteers were also awarded a cash prize of US$1,000.

The annual Harmony World Puppet Carnival was first held in Prague, Czech Republic, in 2008. It was held in Indonesia last year.

Participation in this year’s event was the largest to date, with puppeteers from more than 70 countries attending. The event included puppet shows of traditional, new, innovative and experimental puppetry, workshops, seminars, exhibitions and roundtable discussions.

Khin Maung Htwe said his troupe won despite being handicapped: While other groups received support and funding from their country and other organizations, Htwe Oo Myanmar had to fund themselves, he said, forcing them to forego music played live by musicians in favor of recorded accompaniment.

“I hope Burmese puppetry can achieve more success in future,” Khin Maung Htwe said, “but we need support from the country.”

Six members from the troupe attended the carnival, returning to Burma on Tuesday.

Myanmar puppetry, known as yoke thay, has a rich history that dates back more than 500 years.