She was here to run puppet-making workshops with our children.
- Firstly, we wanted to expose the children to this form of storytelling, which was entirely new to them. We wanted to do this because we intend using a modified puppet show to get the children to help us generate more stories that we can then work up for submission to the African Storybook Project in future. Our children are natural storytellers and revel in oral story telling, and this is an ideal medium. It is also a way to help our shyer children to participate; it is easier to tell a story when you do it through a puppet, as the show at the end of our workshop clearly demonstrated to us.
- Secondly, we wanted to see if being involved in a performance is something that our children will take to. We intend trying to develop our health storybooks using performance both as a tool for developing context-appropriate messages, as well as delivering the messages as part of our drive to get these messages to as many children as possible. We will consider performing the stories and video them so that they can be shown to children at schools, for example.
- Thirdly, many of our children have not had practice with the skills that puppet-making requires; such as outlining shapes with pencils, cutting, making spatial decisions (where should the eyes go), using glue appropriately, and making creative decisions (will my puppet have a hat? Should her shawl be blue? Is he smiling?). Also, manipulating a puppet requires a degree of physical hand control, and making up a story with a group of friends is both a creative and a social challenge.
On the first day we held a small workshop with a little group of twelve older children who we know well. This was to test our process, as well as to recruit helpers for working with the bigger group on the second day.
On the second day around 45 children ranging in age from 4 to 15 years old descended on Paleng, eager to try their hand!
We divided them into groups, and scaffolded the activity so that even the smallest child could participate, and that the oldest children would be fully engaged.
There was a great deal of happy snipping, trimming, sticking, moulding, squeezing, deciding, testing out, changing minds, unsticking, trying again.
A wonderful display of creative chaos!
To begin both these days, Margaret did a performance of a show of her own in order to introduce the children to the whole idea of puppets and a puppet show, which they had never seen before.
She performed a story about a giraffe who was new to the forest, was teased by the other animals, and eventually learned to stand up for herself and be proud of who she is. This story resonates with poor children who are often marginalised by those more fortunate, and we also had our blind child in the audience, who followed the story by listening.
She also showed the children how to work with the puppet in order to bring it to life on stage.
Before going home, our children were asked to think of a story that they might like to perform with their puppets on the third day.
On the third day we made puppets with a very small group who were unable to attend on day two, rehearsed our stories for the performance, and after lunch we held our show. Fifty-five children attended on this day, and five small groups of children performed their own little shows with their puppets on our improvised ‘stage’ (rope and fabric strung across the room) to the delight of everybody there!
From the response of the children on all three days, and the enthusiasm with which they worked, we feel that this experience was a great success. Most children (including our blind and our cerebral palsied child) made both a sock puppet as well as a figure puppet out of newspaper, toilet rolls and a range of materials such as fabric, feathers, felt and wool.
The villages from which the children are drawn now have new inhabitants; little puppets who we are sure are busy at home performing for mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers.
Thank you Margaret and Ruth and all our creative little Paleng puppeteers!
Thank you also Rahula Trust for helping us to bring Margaret to Paleng.