In a world often marked by division and conflict, the art of puppetry has long served as a powerful medium for conveying messages of peace, unity, and mutual understanding. This sentiment was beautifully encapsulated in the recent launch of the UNIMA Puppetry Collaboratorium (UNIMA PC) during the FLUM – The Puppet Art Festival in Mostar from September 25th to 29th, 2023. Spearheaded by the Irish UNIMA and Croatian UNIMA Centre, this initiative aims to unite transcontinental UNIMA Centres for collaborative efforts that elevate UNIMA’s mission of promoting peace and mutual understanding through the art of puppetry.
UNIMA Collaboration and Inception
The UNIMA Puppetry Collaboratorium was conceived following the successful collaboration between the Irish and Croatian UNIMA Centers at UNIMA’s Festival SLUK in Osijek in June 2023. With the enthusiastic support of the UNIMA board and General Secretary, Mr. Dimitri Jageneau, as well as the backing of the Puppet Theatre Mostar and FLUM Festival CEO, Mr. Edin Kmetas, two national centers organized a series of three major events that left a lasting impact on Mostar and UNIMA members from over 12 countries around the globe.
Celebrating Puppetry Art in Mostar
Representatives from different nations converged on Mostar for the FLUM Festival, creating a vibrant tapestry of cultures and traditions. The first event was “Conversation with Mr. Edi Majaron,” which opened up the topic of puppetry design and technology and provided a brief look into the history of Majaron’s work both in Mostar and internationally. Edi Majaron was a renowned Slovenian puppetry director and an ex-member of the Executive Committee of UNIMA, making him one of the most influential figures in global puppetry art. His impressive career and work have left an everlasting mark in the history of art and UNIMA since he was a long-lasting member of the Executive Committee.
The second event, “Relation – Ships,” was a puppet-making workshop designed for children and families in Mostar. Led by Ms. Claudia Lamantea from Ireland and Ms.Tiina Suhonen from Norway, with assistance from Mr. Sean Morrissey from Norway and Mr. TJ Lynn from the USA, this workshop encouraged participants to craft symbolic ships representing children’s emotions, their relationships with Mostar, and the complexities of human nature. Mr. Tj Lynn created music from the sounds of Mostar’s Neretva River and the city’s traditional music for an art installation made from these ships. This installation, a legacy of unity and friendship, was unveiled on the last day of the festival and presented as a gift to the people of Mostar.
The highlight of this event was the “Ship-Launching Ceremony,” a breathtaking spectacle where children and parents released the ships into the Neretva River. These gentle puppeteer vessels symbolized the purification and animation of both the good and complex aspects of our humanity. Live music from guitarist Oisin Donelly White from Ireland and saxophonist Lachlan Brooksbank-Laing from the UK, playing “Moon River” under the full moon, added an enchanting touch to the evening. The ships were released under Mostar’s iconic Old Bridge, a symbol of past conflicts and reconciliation, protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The third event, an artistic panel titled “Introduction to Puppetry Design and Technology,” aimed to foster transgenerational knowledge exchange and create a network among UNIMA members with varying levels of experience. Participants from around the world had the opportunity to present their work, exchange ideas, and establish valuable contacts. This panel, along with Q&A sessions, introduced Bosnian audiences to the intricate world of puppetry design and technology.
Recognition and Future Prospects
The UNIMA Puppetry Collaboratorium’s noble mission to promote human values received recognition and patronage from NGO UNESCO Leisson Committee and its president, Mr. Nick Newland. This initiative now stands as a catalyst for ongoing collaborations among UNIMA Centers worldwide, fostering purposeful and meaningful art that promotes peace, unity, and mutual understanding.
In addition to these enriching events, a meeting and presentation were held with representatives from the EIT European Institute of Innovation and Technology, led by Ms. Ognyana Serafimova from Bulgaria. This interaction introduced attendees to their important work and opened possibilities for future collaborations in the realm of puppetry and innovation.
Furthermore, at the Festival FLUM, a significant event took place—the first meeting of Bosnian and Herzegovinian representatives, with the aim of reestablishing a future UNIMA Bosnia and Herzegovina UNIMA Center. This marked an important milestone in the participation of UNIMA Bosnia and Herzegovina in the UNIMA family, fostering a deeper connection to the global puppetry community.
It is also worth noting that the UNIMA Puppetry Collaboratorium was honored by the presence of UNIMA Ukraine representatives from the National Karpenko-Kary University of Theatre and Television, including professors Mr. Mykhailo Urytsky and Ms. Mariia Pohrebniak, along with their student, Ms. Oleksandra Filonenko. Despite the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, their participation reflects a shared commitment to a better and more peaceful world for our children, families, and friends.
UNIMA Korea representatives also played a significant role during the festival. They presented the remarkable work of UNIMA Korea, including the Puppet Festival in Chuncheon and the incredible efforts they are currently undertaking to organize the UNIMA World Congress in 2025 in Chuncheon.
In a world seeking connection and reconciliation, the UNIMA Puppetry Collaboratorium serves as a beacon of hope, demonstrating the profound impact that puppetry can have in promoting harmony and fostering a shared understanding of the human experience. With continued collaboration and dedication, UNIMA PC has the potential to inspire countless individuals and communities worldwide to come together through the universal language of puppetry, and it is now open to all national centers of UNIMA.