The ASEAN Puppets Exchange Programme (APEX)
Puppetry has existed in Asia for approximately 4000 years and continues to thrive in South-east Asia in many forms and for various purposes. The art form’s resilience and versatility allows artists to educate and entertain audiences of all ages in numerous environments such as schools, hospitals, villages, and theatres, by re-engineering and presenting natural or upcycled materials in an imaginative and engaging way. Puppetry employs skills such as craftsmanship, visual art, staging, literature, song, and performance, and therefore appeals to many people of various interests and aptitudes.
For these reasons, puppetry remains an important and sustainable art form in South-east Asia, as a presentation of its peoples’ heritages, an experimental platform for contemporary cultures and stories, and for the personal and social development of its communities.
To sustain this ancient art of puppetry in Southeast Asia as well as to attract more of ASEAN’s diverse cultures through the art of traditional puppetry, the ASEAN Puppets Exchange Programme (APEX) was initiated in 2014. This is to support ASEAN’s goal to forge a common identity and build a caring and sharing society which is inclusive and where the wellbeing, livelihood, and welfare of the peoples are enhanced. Additionally the APEX sessions are aimed to raise the skills, innovation and sustainability of ASEAN’s puppeteers through a series of workshop
To date, the following exchange programmes have been organised in:
- Laos-Thai exchange:
Professional classical artists from Bangkok visit, coach and inspire community youth artists in Vientiane (November 2014).
- Brunei-Singapore exchange:
Professional artists from Singapore of multiple heritages visit, teach and inspire community artists in Brunei (December 2014).
- P h i l i p p i n e s - I n d o n e s i a e x c h a n g e :
Professional classical artists from Jogjakarta and Jakarta teach and demonstrate various puppet forms to community and commercial artists of Manila (March 2015).
- Malaysia-Cambodia exchange:
Classical artists from Siem Reap and Phnom Penh visit and develop a collaborative performance of the Ramayana/Reamker with artists from Kuala Lumpur (May 2015).
- ASEAN Puppets Exchange, Jakarta:
Puppet artists of Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia and Japan create a renewed, collaborative format of the Ramayana. Artists of all ten ASEAN member states present the puppet performance “Water” for the 48th ASEAN Day (August 2015).
- ASEAN Puppets Exchange, Yangon, Myanamr
Around 20 puppet artists and musicians from Brunei, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam, gathered for a week-long workshop to create one ASEAN puppet performance “APEX-Earth.” (May, 2016)
The APEX-earth is an important step of the journey towards the One ASEAN puppet show and tour in 2017 to celebrate ASEAN’s 50th Anniversary.
- ASEAN Puppets Exchange in Penang, Malaysia
Following a series of ASEAN Puppet Exchange (APEX) workshops across Southeast Asia, over 20 puppet artists and musicians from the APEX collective gathered in George Town from 16-21 October 2016 to collaboratively continue designing the “One ASEAN” story with the focus on the ASEAN economic community. Puppeteers and musicians from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Japan came together to join Malaysia’s artists for APEX’s 9th consecutive exchange. The storyline produced in the 6-day-worskhop titled “APEX Live” highlighting the ASEAN Economic Community where workshops and demonstration performances focused on daily life, family and livelihoods in ASEAN.
- ASEAN Puppets Exchange in Ha Noi, Vietnam
Thirty puppet artists and musicians from the ASEAN Puppet Exchange (APEX) collective gathered in Ha Noi from 9 -18 December 2016 to collaboratively work on the “One ASEAN” story to commemorate the first year of establishing the ASEAN Community. The artist-to-artist exchange was a culmination of nine series of APEX workshop across Southeast Asia that has started since 2014. The “One Story ASEAN” performance took place at the NHÀ HÁT MÚA RỐI VIỆT NAM- the National Puppet Theatre of Vietnam involving puppeteers and musicians from all ten ASEAN member states with guest artists from Utervision of Japan. The exchange was co-organised by the National Puppet Theatre of Viet Nam and APEX’s Lead Coordinators, Artsolute Ltd of Singapore.