I am a South African puppetry and animism practitioner, specializing in animist ritual performance in transformative social, spiritual and cultural practices today. I work specifically with women’s spiritual and sexual empowerment through puppetry and animism. I also work closely with large communities in both South Africa and abroad to use these feminine creative practices in radical peace building, healing and empathy processes. As an artist, ceremonialist and priestess of the Great Goddess, a mother and an academic, my devotion is integrated into every aspect of my creative work and life, exploring pathways to spiritual and sexual expansion and creative freedom.
Dr Aja Marneweck established the international women’s puppetry company, The Paper Body Collective in 2004 in Cape Town. After obtaining an honours degree in video dance and theatre directing in Johannesburg in the ‘90s, Marneweck began her puppetry career with Gary Friedman in Cape Town in 2001, collaborating on the site- specific puppetry production, Looking For a Monster. In 2005 and 2006 she received bursaries to attend puppetry training at the International School of Marionette art in Charleville-Meziere France, with international artists Green Ginger and Au Cu Du Loop. Aja was a founding co-director of the ground breaking Out the Box International Festival of Puppetry and Visual Performance. She has created several multimedia puppetry productions, performing on prestigious international festivals such as the Festival Mondial des Theatres de la Marionettes in Charleville (2009), The Harare International Festival (2010) and the Puppet Theatre Festival at the Stadt Museum in Munich (2013). Marneweck has also created the original puppetry for award winning international Theatre Companies including Theatre of Witness at the Playhouse in Derry, Northern Ireland (productions ‘Release’ in 2012, and ‘Sanctuary’ in 2013) and Opera Company Isango Ensemble (‘The Mysteries’, which played at the Garrick Theatre on on the West End in 2009, ‘Aesop’s Fables’, 2010, ‘Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’, 2010, and ‘Noyes Fludd’, 2012). She also directs the Handspring Puppet Trust Parade giant puppetry event in Barrydale in the Klein Karoo.
In 2012 she was awarded the first PhD in practice as research in puppetry in South Africa for her provocative production Plot 99 about the life of the Xhosa Prophetess Nonthetha Nkwnkwe. Aja’s international performance research, has been described as a ‘powerful utility of a Feminist Semiotic for an innovative women’s theatrical aesthetics in practices that could become a cross-cultural and international phenomenon’.