GOAL Puppet Workshop, Uganda/Kenya


GOAL Puppet Workshops Kenya and Uganda

Locations: Kalongo, Uganda and Nairobi Kenya

Date: April-May 2011

Supervisor/Organizer for GOAL: Caroline Hurley

Puppet Workshop Facilitator: Ronald Binion

Additional Photos: Goal Kenya-Puppet Workshop




binion_humanitarian_goal_kenya_puppet_workshop_04A four-week training in the art of puppetry held in two East African countries supported by GOAL, an Irish aid organization. The training enabled participants to create dramatic scenes and then present them with puppet characters. The scenes dealt with the behavioral issues relevant to HIV/AIDS. The scenes tackled issues like stigmatization, knowing one’s status, condom use, Monogamy, and sexual abuse.

The puppets were a hands-on style of puppetry called tabletop puppetry or Bunraku-style. The workshop also involved the construction of puppet figures. The were made of simple materials meant to empower participants to use low-cost materials and still enjoy artistic and dramatic success.


 In April of 2011 I conducted two month-long Puppet Workshops. One in Kalongo, Uganda in the northern part of Uganda and an identical workshop in Nairobi, Kenya in an area called Buru Buru. The participants were youths and peer educators from partnering youth organizations supported by GOAL. There were several participants representing their region, and the hope was that they would bring this new skill of puppetry and dramatic presentation to their community to develop further work.

Most community organizations have some training and programs that involve community outreach presentations with the intention of informing the public about health risks, and safe practices as well as being a conduit for further information and health resources.

Puppetry was meant to create a more entertaining and fun presentation that would communicate information on a more dramatic level and could depict characters involved with the behaviors and choices and consequences that surround health issues.

In many areas puppetry was already being used with measurable effect. In several cases in Uganda specifically I observed the use of larger than life Puppet figures that were called “Crowd-Pulling” Puppets. As the name suggests the puppets were used to draw attention and gather a crowd. These puppets would be akin to large pageant style puppets that are seen in parades or even large-scale papier-mâché puppets that are seen in political protests.

The four-week long workshop would end with a final presentation of a handful of puppet scenes that would be presented to several local communities.

binion_humanitarian_goal_kenya_puppet_workshop_01The youth participants spent each day going through exercises of puppet manipulation, writing and creating scenes, presenting the scenes, and then critiquing and refining. Time was also spent in puppet fabrication.

For many this puppet workshop was their first time being in front of a group of people and addressing an audience. There were also many participants who had enormous experience in acting and theater, and it was exciting for me to be able to work and learn from them as well.

Everyone made significant creative contributions, and the process of show-making with puppets demanded a host of skills from writing and coming up with fun ideas to the craft of puppet building and finally to the multi-talented skills of performing puppet characters that are a mix of vocal work, acting and puppet manipulation.

An added benefit to this workshop was simply bringing people together for a positive and hopeful creative endeavor. Teamwork, and mutual respect was fostered and essential to the spirit of the final show.

Caroline Hurley did a masterful job of organizing and bringing together representatives of many youth organizations to these locations for this unusual but exciting workshop.

On the final day we brought our puppet figures out to the villages and slum areas where we put our ideas to the test in front of a community audience.

binion_humanitarian_goal_kenya_puppet_workshop_02The quirky quality that is inherent to puppetry became a huge benefit in these unorthodox settings. Within minutes the participants, now performers had set up the location with tables and signs and then brought out their puppet figures to take the audience on many journeys to different locations and witnessing an array of characters in both serious and amusing situations.

The effect was an enjoyable, and memorable experience that was uplifting and hopeful despite the heavy nature of the subjects presented.

These workshops proved the benefit of presentations incorporating an instant theater comprised of puppet characters that can communicate a variety of emotions and struggles and solutions. The shows were communicating on a level that was visual, emotional, dramatic, and unambiguous.