How puppetry promoter is coping with funding problems

Commissioned work and donor-funded projects help them get by

In Summary

• CBC is trying to introduce puppetry into their curriculum, but not in a serious way

A puppet show performance by Kenya Institute of Puppet Theatre on electoral integrity in Nairobi
A puppet show performance by Kenya Institute of Puppet Theatre on electoral integrity in Nairobi

The Kenya Institute of Puppet Theatre offers three main programmes, namely: community performances, puppetry training and internship for local and international students.

Artistic director Tony Mboyo says their programmes have been hindered by funding problems.

“We used to organise a puppetry festival every two years. We have not been able to do so of late due to the Covid pandemic and current financial situations,” he said.

Most of the puppeteers are still young, except for Mboyo and the director of KIPT, who have stayed on for quite some time.

Mboyo said they have several ways in which they source for revenue to sustain themselves.

“We have commissioned work. For example, an organisation can ask us to do an act in accordance with their theme and they pay for it,” he said.

“We also have donor funded projects whereby we look for donors who can sponsor a project for six months or even one or two years.”

Mboyo said that they also do consultancy, whereby they are hired by an organisation to train a group of people in the art of puppetry.

In a bid to revive the industry, Mboyo said that they have been actively sourcing for new talent.

“We normally do an open call for puppeteers in terms of social media reach,” Mboyo said.

“And we also get talent based on interest, where someone can walk into our offices and say, ‘I want to become a puppeteer’.”

“We also have applications by universities and institutions that want us to conduct training and internship.”

“The department of literature from UoN, for example, has been giving us talent (puppeteers) through a long-term ongoing project, and recently Maseno University sent us an invitation to conduct an internship,” he said.

KIPT recently made an open call for puppeteers in Nakuru, but they have not been able to get people to come on board for the past two months.

This is the year, however, the number of talent in puppetry has grown steadily.

“We have younger puppeteers who have completed high school who been trained for over a year and are currently based in Bungoma and Kitale,” Mboyo said.

In the next four, five years, the art industry might need puppeteers and the likes of Mboyo might be retired due to age.

In as much as on-screen, stage-play and set book acting require talent and serve as an opportunity, it is time for puppetry acting to be embraced.

Puppetry can be used to address issues such as drug and substance abuse, alcoholism, terror gangs as well as violent extremism.

“I have seen CBC trying to introduce puppetry into their curriculum but not in a serious way,” Mboyo said.

Art being one of my many hats, I feel like artistes can join puppetry, get trained and conduct their own puppetry shows as individual or group puppeteers.

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