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Taiwanese puppetry festival comes to Museum of Anthropology

11/04/2014 05:15 EST | Updated 01/04/2015 05:59 EST
The art of puppetry is alive and well in Taiwan and visitors to UBC's Museum of Anthropology will find out why this week.

The Ouxi Taiwainese Puppetry Festival, which runs Nov. 4 to 9, features performances by Taiwain's acclaimed Chin Fei Feng Marionette Theatre Troup and Taiyuan Puppet Theatre.

In Taiwan, puppetry is so popular that there's a 24 hour a day television channel featuring the art.

"It started almost 40 years ago," Robin Ruizdendaal, the Managing and Artistic Director of Taiyun Puppet Theatre, told The Early Edition.

"At the time it was not allowed to speak Taiwanese on television [except] for half an hour a day of puppet theatre." 

"It became so popular that it was banned at the end of the 70s because the whole Taiwanese economy and school system came to halt when the show was on."

Now the Thunderbolt Puppet Television company is so successful that it's registered on the Taiwanese stock exchange.

"They're very successful," said Ruizdendaal. "They're the only puppeteers in the world who drive a Ferrari."

Puppets appeal across cultures and generations

Ruizendaal, who has a PhD in Chinese Studies from Leiden University and is an authority on Asian puppet theatre, says puppets exist in almost every culture, and with good reason.

He says their popularity of Taiwanese puppet theatre comes from the beauty of the handcrafted puppets, the skill of the puppeteers and the types of universal stories they are able to tell.

Shows are accompanied by live musicians and include singing and puppet acrobatics.

The Museum of Anthropology festival will culminate in a collaborative performance by Taiwanese puppeteers and two Haida artists: storyteller Kung Jaadee and visual artist Gwaai Edenshaw.

That event takes place at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 9.

Watch a video of the Chin Fei Feng marionette troupe

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