Puppet Makers + Puppeteers

 This page outlines the biographies and includes the reflections and words of contemporary puppet makers and puppeteers whose artistic works and practices were commissioned, borrowed, or acquired for the exhibition. 

SAGIO

Wayang Kulit (Shadow Puppets) Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia

Sagio is a master wayang kulit shadow puppet maker of the kraton, the Sultan’s palace in Yogyakarta, Java, who has been teaching art at the Akademi Teknologi Kulit Yogyakarta (Academy of Leather Technology) since 1987. In MOA’s collection there are 54 objects attributed to Sagio: 15 exquisite puppets of Yogyanese court style; an ornate Ramayana headdress; 31 leather-cutting tools, and a set of six items showing the different stages of making a wayang kulit shadow puppet. This includes the paper pattern and the cut-out buffalo hide in sequence, documenting the figure’s elaboration through decorative incisions,

paint, and gold-leaf application.

JORGE CERQUEIRA

Marionetas (String Puppets) Sintra, Portugal

Jorge Cerqueira is an internationally renowned puppet maker who lives in Sintra near Lisbon, Portugal. He is also a school teacher who teaches visual art and technology in the same area. With a degree in fine arts, he began making puppets in the late 1980s as a means to engage his students, to show the ways in which different materials and techniques can be fashioned and articulated into marvelous human forms. From these organic beginnings, Jorge Cerqueira’s reputation grew and he started to receive commissions from individuals, galleries, and museums. 

THE NAPOLI FAMILY

Opera dei Pupi (String Puppets), Catania, Sicily, Italy

The eight puppets dramatically poised on the Opera dei Pupi stage, many clad in shining armour, stand one metre tall from head to foot, with metal rod and wire mechanisms extending atop. They were made in the 1990s by the famous Napoli family, fourth-generation pupari (puppet makers) and puppeteers. Their workshop and small museum are housed in an ancient building, Casa Museo dei Fratelli Napoli, nestled in the historic centre of Catania, a city on the east coast of Sicily. Their company, La Marionettistica Fratelli Napoli, was established in 1921 by Gaetano Napoli and his sons Pippo, Rosario, and Natale. Their knowledge and skills have been passed down through the family line. The making of each pupi (puppet) covers a range of creative skills including wood carving, painting, metalworking, and tailoring. 

THE LU FAMILY

Píyǐngxì (Shadow Puppets), Hebei Province, China

The contemporary píyǐngxì (shadow puppets) in the exhibition were made in 2018 by the Lu family—Fuzeng (father), Yishu (mother), and Tianxiang (son)—of Hebei province, China. Lu Fuzeng is a master puppet cutter from the Luanzhou region. He was introduced to puppet cutting while at elementary school. In rural areas, students were taught how to cut simple puppets out of paper and perform popular plays. He went on to apprentice with Master Wang, a master puppet cutter. Historically, master cutters would only pass their knowledge and skills down through the male line, from father to son. Master Lu searched for years to find a master without children who was willing to share his family’s tradition with a non-relative who bears a different surname.