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6 Fun Facts About Vietnamese Water Puppetry

Join us Sunday, February 10th for a celebration of Vietnamese culture! CMA is partnering with the Vietnam Heritage Center to present workshops inspired by traditional and contemporary arts practices of Vietnam. Children’s Librarian Kristy Raffensberger from our local NYPL Hudson Park branch will be hosting Story Time at 11 am, reading books by Vietnamese authors, and the Vietnam Heritage Center will be hosting the Bamboo Jumping Game at 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm.

Tell your story! Our Media Lab workshop for the day is inspired by Vietnamese Water Puppetry (Múa rối nước cổ truyền). We’ll be making our own paper puppets and animating them with stop motion. To get us ready for our Vietnamese Cultural Festival, here are 6 fun facts about Vietnamese Water Puppetry:

1. Water puppetry is a tradition that dates back to the 11th century in the villages of the Red River Delta area of northern Vietnam. The tradition began when the rice fields flooded with water and villagers would build elaborate wooden puppets held up by a long bamboo sticks.

2. These puppets are made out of fig wood and then lacquered. Puppeteers perform from behind a screen in a waist-deep pool by controlling the puppet with a rod and strings. This creates the illusion that the puppets are moving on top of the water.

3. Performing is highly skilled and requires great strength. Sometimes the puppets weigh up to 33 lbs!

4. Vietnamese orchestras usually provide accompaniment to these performances. Players sing, play drums, wooden bells, cymbals, horns, gongs, bamboo flutes, and Đàn bầu — a single-stringed instrument unique to Vietnam.

5. Chú Tễu is the most common character in Vietnamese Water Puppetry. He is a jokester that usually introduces the story or offers musings on politics and daily life.

6. Water puppetry is a folk art practice believed to be over 1,000 years old!

This program is supported, in part, by the Horance W. Goldsmith Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts with support from Governor Andrew Cuomo, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the Vietnam Heritage center. The Vietnam Heritage Center is a non-profit organization with the mission to provide support for the Vietnamese immigrant community while educating the general public and local community on Vietnamese language and culture. Learn more at CIVICKIDS is sponsored by Google.

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