1st Puppetry Museum opens
By Anjum Gill
LAHORE: The city marked another milestone with the grand opening of a one-of-a-kind puppetry museum on Wednesday.
The Rafi Peer Theatre Puppetry Museum at Raiwind sprawls six kanals, boasts puppets from 30 countries and comes with its own theatre for 350. It took 11 years to make and is the largest such establishment in South East Asia, said director Faizaan Peerzada. Puppetry has long been neglected in Pakistan, said Mr Peerzada. Previously there had been “no documentation, no written material available and no preservation programme,” he said. It is this that the museum hopes to change. “Our aim is to also rehabilitate folk puppeteers, impart lost puppetry skills to keen young men and women from low-income households,” he said. The museum will work with other non-governmental organisations to raise social awareness, he added.
Speaking on the occasion, Governor of the Punjab former Lt Gen Khalid Maqbool lauded the Peerzada family for their contribution to the arts. He described Pakistan as a tolerant and culturally fertile land. He said puppetry had a long tradition in Pakistan.
“I’m myself a puppet of the government and I know who pulls my strings,” Mr Maqbool quipped. “Puppetry allows people to say things they would otherwise not be able to.” Mr Maqbool said he did not agree with the notion that the army had curtailed cultural activities and put the onus on lack of staff at art schools and on the lack of patrons. “(Patrons) don’t exist anymore. The arts lost sponsorship and started fading away.” Ambassador of Norway Janis Bjorn Kanavin was on hand to unveil a plaque commemorating the Union International De La Marneonnat (UNIMA) or the National Centre of World Union of Puppeteers. Norway funded the project in part. “I hope this museum and facility will not gather dust but will be a live arena,” said Mr Kanavin. “Right to culture is a human right. It is a mean of communication and an agent of change.” Culture adds to this development, he added. The Rafi Peer Theatre was founded in 1974 and since its first puppet show 11 years ago has organised some 2,500 performances bringing together a total of 3,000 performers from 56 countries. The museum is the “realisation of the dream of our father,” said Mr Peerzada of his late playwright father.