The Annual Net vir Pret Giant Puppet Community Parade and Performance

“It has been my great honour to lead the Barrydale creative team in this extraordinary project that is unique in the way it brings rural and urban communities together,  collaborating with amazing puppetry and performance artists from around the globe, and empowering local South African children in a celebration of creative expression and humanity.    Every year our intention is to really celebrate our creative potential and the power of the Barrydale community, but we also tackle serious issues, questions and problems around heritage, conservation, power and history.  Puppetry allows these two intentions to meet in the magic of creative possibility. The project has confirmed for me the power of creativity and the special alchemy of puppetry in particular to empower people, to act as a social and political mirror, to agitate for change, to celebrate life.”-Aja   

Paper Puppetry Workshops Barrydale 2015

Since its inception in 2010, the Barrydale giant puppet parade and performance has become a landmark creative event in this small farming town on the R62 in the Klein Karoo. This annual site- specific community puppetry performance event involves nearly 200 local learners, youths and performers, as well as a host of puppeteers, artists, musicians and creative collaborators in puppetry workshops, puppet making, music making, dance, rehearsals, performance creation and creative celebration.  It is a creative collaboration between the Handspring Puppet Trust (and Handspring Puppet Company Creative team), the award winning NPO Net vir Pret based in Barrydale and the University of the Western Cape’s Centre for Humanities Research flagship.

This annual community process and event is in line with the most exciting of political and people’s  puppetry internationally, such as created by Bread and Puppet theatre or Welfare State, where the imagined boundaries between high and low, amateur and professional, art and craft are made so irrelevant by the volcanic tide of a communal co-creative r-evolution in action!

Every year the community have been tackling potent questions that challenge and push the bar around serious historical, social, political and cultural issues that the community face. Issues such as slavery, coloured identity and re-tracing first nation identity, the connection between labour and the ‘dop’ system, reclaiming Hessequa mythologies and stories, have brought to the fore some of the more difficult and darker aspects of history and the present, using puppetry to find new ways for expression and creative routes for hope within the community.

Dr Aja Marneweck has served as the Creative Director of the project for four years, collaborating and co -creating on four productions and parades which include Kagg’agn Dreams 2014Die Name Wat Ons Gee 2015Olifantland 2016 and the latest offering Renosterbos which will premier on the 17th December 2017!!!

Published on May 23, 2017

The Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape, Handspring Puppet Company, Ukwanda, Net Vir Pret, Magpie Art Collective and Stanley John Films present Olifantland. A documentary directed by Dale Fortune and produced by Blake Steenkamp, Derek Carelse, Premesh Lalu and Basil Jones, it tracks the various aspects of the 2016 Reconciliation Day Parade held in Barrydale, South Africa.

The 2016 Barrydale Puppet Parade and Performance, called Olifantland, a multilingual visual theatre show featuring five majestic life-size elephant puppets by Adrian Kohler from Handspring Puppet Company in collaboration with UKWANDA Puppet and Design Collective.


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In 2016, the Handspring Puppet Company’s award winning head designer, Adrian Kohler (who designed and created the horses for War Horse), with the help of upcoming puppet making team Ukwanda (headed by Luyanda Nogodlwana) brought to life a herd of life-size Elephants in the magnificent landscape of the Tradouw Valley. Directed and choreographed by Aja Marneweck with original sound composition by Simon Kohler and local Barrydale musicians Peter Takelo and Gary Crawford, over 120 children  making and performing their own puppets with designs guided by Jill Joubert.

“Our performance begins deep in the valleys of the Tradouw, many moons ago, in a celebration of the animals, communities and plants that fill the valley. Chief Khoi is the local community leader and storyteller, dreaming back into the past when his people, the Khoi San, had freedom to roam the land, hunt for the pot, gather plants for food and medicine, bury their dead in sacred ancestral places and visit their ancestral caves and rock paintings.”



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