The Giant Puppet Project
Siem Reap's town centre came alive last night as throngs of people and
giant puppets floated through the streets.
A giant lion, monitor lizard, duck and monkey, and many others,
wound their way amidst mayhem and revelry.
Different groups of local children created each giant puppet out of
bamboo for the frames and coloured rattan for the skin or fur.
The mechanics of the moving puppets were fascinating to see,
and the gigantic designs were breathtaking.
Each was lit up from inside, creating an otherworldly,
The Giant Puppet Project is Cambodia's largest community arts project: a creative platform promoting artistic self expression for Cambodia's disadvantaged children. Children under 15 make up a third of Cambodia's population, and widespread poverty means a difficult life and a lack of education for many of them.
Art inspires confidence, and showing off their creations to the world makes the children feel part of their community. The Giant Puppet Project offers this opportunity to over 600 children each year, from over a dozen NGOs including local schools, vocational facilities and 'street kid' organisations, and child landmine survivors.
This year's theme is Cambodia's endangered animal species. The line-up includes a monitor lizard, a white-winged duck, a water buffalo, a caterpillar and a red ant. A monkey represented the upcoming Year of the Monkey, the lion was for Cambodia's royal coat of arms, and the Cambodian football team also put in an appearance!
The first phase of the project is three weeks of workshops for the children to make the giant puppets, encouraging them to open their imaginative minds. Each group has a designated puppet to create, taking roughly two days in total to complete. The puppets are around ten to thirty metres in size. The workshops also educate the children on endangered Cambodian wildlife and Cambodian cultural figures.
The second phase of the project is the parade through the town, in the style of Chinese dragon parades. It is a climactic finale for each organisation to exhibit their unique creation. The children march with pride amidst cheers from the ever-growing crowd of locals and tourists. The first parade in 2007 saw around 100 people, this year they had closer to 20,000 spectators! Around 1,000 children and adults joined the parade.
Donations go to next year's parade.
Music and melodies fitted the atmosphere perfectly: 'in the jungle' blasting out as the huge lion creeps down the road, vans full of drummers or jazz players following the floats, and the Siem Reap Scout group bringing up the rear, all of them playing instruments or banging drums.
The energy of the marchers and the screams and laughter of the children
shows how valuable nights like these can be,
for they literally 'light up' Siem Reap!
For more information please see the Giant Puppet Project website: