(Formerly UNIMA South Africa)

Union Internationale la Marionette (UNIMA) was the first cultural organization established by UNESCO in 1929 and continuously works to encourage cultural interaction and world peace through the art of puppetry. UNIMA International is based in France with a global network.

Initially a special interest club, UNIMA SA was founded in 1972. The niche community of puppeteers and puppetry lovers in the South African organization celebrated many talented and respected puppeteers for their contribution to the art from both in South Africa and abroad.

In 2005 Janni Younge returned from her studies in France to take up leadership of UNIMA SA. Janni formalized the constitution, registered it as an NPO and solicited key players in puppetry, the arts, business and civil society to the board.

With these changes, a new vitality was injected into the organisation and it entered an era of innovation and rapid growth. Over the years the Puppetry South Africa team has transformed the organisation into a thriving social enterprise promoting skills development, sustainable arts practice and creative excellence.

Puppetry South Africa now operates on a year round basis, running the 10-day Out the Box international festival as well as several training and development portfolios. UNIMA has become a thriving social enterprise promoting skills development, sustainable arts practice and creative excellence.


The Active Puppets programme aims to provide artistic, facilitation and administrative skills and experience to young community-based theatre artists so that they are able to work and earn a livable income working in the arts industry Since its inception in 2006, the programme has mentored 11 community-based theatre groups from areas including Khayelitsha, Delft, Philliphi, Mbekweni, Mfuleni, Heidelberg & Wellington. The programme has reached over 500 young community-based artists and we have seen major success with those artists using puppetry as an additional method of expression in their productions. Our groups have performed their puppetry productions at major festivals including the National Arts Festival, the KKNK, the Zabalaza Theatre festival (Baxter Theatre) and the Zwakala Theatre Festival (Market Theatre Lab).


Creative Hands is Puppetry South Africa’s schools programme. The programme aims to build community, address spatial integration and harness diversity; and uses puppetry, visual theatre and storytelling in order to help young people develop leadership skills, confidence and social awareness through creativity. The objectives of the program include: providing learners with soft skills (such as empathy, negotiation, social sensitivity and leadership) and hard skills (arts and crafts, construction, puppet manipulation, performance and storytelling) whilst improving communication, confidence, employability and the ability to work in a group; providing a platform for creative expression; and empowering teachers with hard and soft skills.


The Out The Box festival pushes the boundaries of puppetry and visual performance, building bridges between artistic and cultural communities and stimulating a love of diversity in the arts. The international festival is a 10-day multidisciplinary event in Cape Town celebrating innovation, diversity and sustainability. Over the 8 years of its existence, it has become the largest festival of puppetry and visual theatre in Africa, attracting artists from all over the world.