Bridging the gap between communities with puppets

In 2013 the Lutfia Rabbani Foundation supported the Arab Puppet Theatre Foundation (Lebanon) to implement an art residence for refugees in the Lebanese capital. The objective of this residence is to create a space of encounter and training, in addition to an opportunity of knowledge-exchange for young puppeteers and youths working in humanitarian organizations or with human rights or refugees.

In the foundation’s latest workshop, held at the art residence, 21 Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese youths trained for three weeks to become puppet theatre trainers. The participants, most of whom are refugees themselves, will use the training from the workshop in their work with refugee children in Syria and Lebanon. For these children a puppet theatre may create a temporary escape from the difficult situation they are living in.

Nour Hawasli (19) is one of the participants coming from Syria. He now works with refugees in the Shatila camp in Beirut and says he will use the knowledge and experience he gained from the workshop in his daily work with refugee children there. “What is unique with puppetry is that you don’t need any equipment”, Hawasli says while decorating his cardboard figure at the workshop’s residence in Hamra in Beirut. “You can even make a puppet-theatre out of socks”, he underlines.

Leader of the Arab Puppet Theatre Foundation, Palestinian Mahmoud Hourani emphasizes the importance of the fact that a puppet theatre can be made of virtually anything. With the ongoing war in Syria, the foundation in 2013 and 2014 has been focusing on making puppet theatre with minimal tools. The equipment used by the youths in the workshop varies from simple cardboard figures to professional dolls. Buying such dolls is really expensive, Hourani explains, adding that all the dolls they use are made by the youths.

On October 7 2013 the participants from the workshop held their final show in Babel Theatre in Beirut. In the show the youths demonstrated how cardboards and dolls can be used as the basis of a theatre dealing with important issues. The show itself was made up of three acts dealing with three main issues, namely; uprooting from home, nostalgia, and the hope of returning home.

Many of the participants in the workshop are going back to Syria after their training in Beirut and some of them are already operating refugee centers for children inside the war-torn country. In conflict areas where access to equipment and locations are strained, puppet theatres serve as an excellent method of offering children an escape from the difficulties they are going through, through fun and imagination.

Read more about the Arab Puppet Theatre Foundation here.