South Africa: Puppetry in Education (PIE) was founded in 2001. Since then there have been over 1400 puppet and marionette performances for over 9000 children. They have taken place in the Educare Centres, schools, shacks and churches in the region around Hermanus and in the Cape Flats. The puppet shows are performed in the language of the children that are watching, so either English, Afrikaans or Xhosa. In this way the puppet theatre has become very well known and is just as popular as it is unconventional.
“Lets meet Tandi – one day she was walking home from the river when it started to rain. When she heard the thunder in the distance, she remembered the song her grannie often sang: Imvula imvula...”
Many children and even adults look towards the stage full of anticipation and emotion. Although the performances are very simple and mistakes happen, because the puppeteers are amateurs, they still have this wonderful affect. For a while, another world is created. A world in which the children can find healing for their wounds and strength for the challenges of their daily lives.
The idea to integrate puppetry as a pegagogical element into the work of Waldorf teachers came from a woman from England who suggested to teach a few people a simple form of puppet theatre. Soon afterwards the first people were introduced to the world of puppets at a course and so it came about that puppetry was integrated into the work of the Waldorf teachers in Cape Town.
The first performances were very successful and the puppet shows gained access to more and more “stages”, even in the township shacks. The enthusiasm of the audience was so great that it reached the ears of the Minister of Culture at the time, Whitey Jacobs. During a gala at the Cape of Good Hope Castle the PIE was given an award for innovation in art and culture. The PIE representative, a little puppet, sat on the stage and said thank you most politely.
In time a holiday course began where the children learn to make birds and butterflies for the stage. In this way the children are not only members of the audience, but also learn how the little things, which come to life on stage, are made. The many little birds and insects that the children made helped the puppet show The Queen Bee to come to life.