Wednesday 2nd August – afternoon
Workshop: Womens’ Ritual Animism and Puppetry Workshop: The Sacred Femininity of Being
Puppetry is considered to be one of the oldest forms of artistic creativity. It combines sculpture, sacred objects, embodiment, performance, movement, voice and imagination. Its origins on the African continent stem from animism, a way of being alive to the world, understanding the connecting flow between the living, the still to be born and the ancestral, the divine and the profane, the female and the male, the human and the non human (plants, animals, land, space, stars, objects, art). Animist based practices such as puppetry are found all over the world, and in South Africa our indigenous puppetry and doll practices are linked especially to the Great Mother. Dolls and puppets are linked to secret initiation traditions and to women’s sexual, spiritual and creative healing powers, ancestral knowledge and the resistance of patriarchy.
Puppetry expresses the uniquely feminine knowledge of birth, death and rebirth that we hold in our being and bodies. Puppetry is a creative expression of the feminine meeting points of spirit and matter, of what makes us human and divine, of the exquisite vulnerability of our lives and the power and magic of being. It is our ability to see and feel the processes of life in everything all around us. In this workshop, we use the magical material of brown paper, to create our own puppets, and to invoke, sculpt and explore archetypes and myths of the ancient Mothers of Africa. We use puppetry in its shamanic origins, to reclaim the ancient creative healing processes of women’s animism.
Aja Marneweck writes: “I am a South African puppetry and animism practitioner, specializing in animist ritual performance in transformative social, spiritual and cultural practices today. I work specifically with women’s spiritual and sexual empowerment through puppetry and animism. I also work closely with large communities in both South Africa and abroad to use these feminine creative practices in radical peace building, healing and empathy processes. As an artist, ceremonialist and priestess of the Great Goddess, a mother and an academic, my devotion is integrated into every aspect of my creative work and life, exploring pathways to spiritual and sexual expansion and creative freedom. I was initiated and trained as a tantric Shakta and devotee of Maha Kali and I have also initiated at sacred sites of the Great Mother Goddess in South Africa with our most beloved lineage keepers Mama Virginia Mutwa and high Sanusi uBaba Credo Vusamazulu Mutwa.
“I was a founding co-director of the ground-breaking “Out the Box” International Festival of Puppetry and Visual Performance from 2005-2009 and have created several multimedia puppetry productions with my performance company, The Paper Body Collective, performing at prestigious festivals such as the Festival Mondial des Theatres de la Marionettes in Charleville (2009) and the Puppet Theatre Festival at the Stadt Museum in Munich (2013). I have also created the original puppetry for award winning international Theatre Companies including “Theatre of Witness” at the Playhouse in Derry, Northern Ireland (productions “Release” in 2012, and “Sanctuary” in 2013) and Opera Company Isango Portobello (“The Mysteries” which played at the Garrick Theatre on the West End in London 2009). I hold the first practice based PhD in women’s sacred puppetry performance in South Africa.”