Handspring Puppet Company is committed to seeing the art of Puppetry developing in South Africa. To this end, several projects encouraging this development have been launched and supported over the past 2 years.

The Handspring Awards for Puppetry endorse consistently high standards in new South African work. Iqonga aims to provide technical support and a platform for experimentations with the medium. The Handspring Trust was formed specifically to support these developments and to provide skills training in puppetry to historically disadvantaged communities. For more on the Handspring Trust click here.

Handspring is also interested in developing skills in puppetry around the world. Most of the teaching we do happens in training the casts on productions we are involved in creating. We do also offer puppetry skills workshops, some examples of which are listed below.

The Handspring Awards for Puppetry

angel - handspring awards

The Handspring Awards for Puppetry, were launched in March 2010. The Awards recognise outstanding puppetry work presented at South Africa’s puppetry festival, Out The Box (create link here). 4 of the 5 award categories are only open to African productions, this is to encourage quality puppetry work from within the continent. The award category for Best Production (on Out The Box) is open to local and international work. Each award carries a cash prize and winners are announced at and award ceremony at the end of the festival.


handspring awards 2011

Best Puppet Production: Sadako. Presented by the Hearts and Eyes Theatre Collective, Sadako combines video projection, puppets and live actors tell the story of Sadako Sasaki and the legend of one thousand paper cranes. www.heartsandeyes.co.za.

Best Visual Theatre Production: Inua. A multimedia production presented by Baba Yaga Theatre, Inua is a search for the essence (the inua) of the things spiritual, emotional and physical. www.babayaga.dk

Best Puppet Design: Gavin Younge for After Cardenio. Written and directed by Jane Taylor, After Cardenio is imagined in the reworking of the historically archived “missing” play, Cardenio, one of the last pieces that Shakespeare wrote. www.gavinyounge.com

Best Manipulation: Benchmarks (Adult Festival). Presented by FTH:K, Benchmarks is about three desperate and lonely individuals who get drawn into an unlikely relationship that will lead them on a journey of discovery, companionship, tragedy and reconciliation. www.fthk.co.za

Best Puppet Debut: Inja Ka Vuyo. Presented by Isibane in association with UNIMA SA, is performed in isiXhosa and tells the story of a small boy with big dreams. www.unimasouthafrica.org


handspring awards 2010

Best Production: Angel. A creation of Duda Paiva Company, performed by Duda Paiva. A classic fall from Grace of a tramp meets an angel in a graveyard and sets up home with him. We enter an ambivalent world of dreams, curses and revelation. www.dudapaiva.com

Best Visual Theatre Production: 27 Windows, 4 Doors and 2 Taps. Directed by Mwenya Kabwe and Mandla Mabothwe and devised with the cast. A live sound, image & movement installation that explores suspension. Trapped in a pretense of connectedness, the available exit options lead nowhere and a community grapples with a sense of rootlessness.

Best Puppet Design: Jonathan Shapiro and Thierry Cassuto for the puppets for ZA News. Produced by Both Worlds Productions, ZA News is an online satirical political comedy which features puppets based on Zapiro’s caricatures. A compilation screened as part of Out The Box’s Moving Things film festival. www.zanews.co.za

Best Puppet Manipulation: Ilana Cilliers and Ubom! Theatre Company for The Adventures of a Little Nobody. A magical creature embarks on a roller-coaster adventure to discover where she came from. www.ubom.co.za

Best Puppet Debut: Lennie and the Wasteland. Produced by The Space Behind the Couch and directed by Beren Belknap. Lennie finds himself in a situation where he is the last man on earth. Well, apart from his mutant friend. facebook.com


Iqonga 2011


Iqonga 2011 was produced by Puppetry South Africa in association with Handspring Puppet Company for Out The Box Festival.

Iqonga (from the Xhosa, meaning platform, stage) is about collaboration and the exploration of puppetry as a unifying medium in the field of performance. It brings together artists from various cultural backgrounds and creative disciplines for a common purpose – to create short-form puppetry theatre that moves.

Iqonga is an performance project that takes place at the Out The Box Festival of Puppetry and Visual Performance in Cape Town. In 2011 , Iqonga was co-produced and curated by Handspring Puppet Company.

Artists are invited to submit proposals for a 12 minute short-form puppetry play. From submissions, 8 pieces are selected for development. Following the selection process artists are mentored with puppet making and manipulation training. The purpose of Iqonga is to give established and emerging artists an opportunity to experiment with puppetry and visual theatre. In addition to technical puppetry mentoring, Iqonga provides a fully equipped theatre, technical support, stage manager, advertising, a budget for puppet / object building costs, and a full-house audience. Artists are encouraged to develop successful short-form Iqonga pieces into full length works and submit to the Out The Box Festival the following year.



Many workshops are run by our extensive team of puppetry experts. Below are some examples of the type of workshops Handspring offers.

Philosophy of Breath

Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler run workshops focusing on puppet manipulation, dialoguing and ideas of movement. They work with participants on using breath as central to effective manipulation.

Accessing Bunraku-style Puppetry

Janni Younge runs a workshop which explores some key aspects of Bunraku-style puppetry. Bunraku is a form of Japanese puppetry where 3 visible manipulators control one puppet. In this workshop participants learn the essentials of constructing Bunraku-style puppets. Participants learn the basics of manipulating this form of puppet, learning to work together to create life in the object-puppet.

The Alchemy of Objects

Jason Potgieter runs a practical, hands-on exploration of the fundamental principles of puppetry. Participants play with neutral, sculpted and found materials with the intention of gaining a working knowledge of puppet manipulation technique. The Workshop explores how narrative can be generated from the relationship between space, object and materiality. The workshop is suitable for performers, designers and puppet theatre practitioners who want to learn puppetry manipulation technique or brush up on their manipulation skills.

Poly Carving

Jessica Mias-Jones offers a polystyrene carving workshop. By the end of the workshop one should be able to use basic polystyrene hand carving tools and have an understanding of how to bring a 3 dimensional form out of a plain block of polystyrene material.