By Tamjid Alkohali
In 2004, it was just a hobby. He was buying dolls, preparing for the shows, and then presenting them to front of children and friends in his neighborhood and school. That was Saddam Mohammed al-Edlah, who is nowthe manager of Thraa Puppet Theater and the Yemeni representative at the International Union for the Puppet Theater.
“Since my childhood, I have been interested in dolls, but when I traveled to Egypt, I realized the importance of Puppet Theater, where there is an entity that specializes in this area. I learned a lot of things, attended many shows, and also offered some shows for the children.”
Al-Edlah’s experience in Egypt made his interest more than a hobby, and it became an aim accompanied by a hope to achieve it in Yemen. He returned to his home country and decided to established a specialized team in this field.
“I started to use my experience from Egypt to train a group of young people and gather them together in a love of dolls.”
Al-Edlah emphasized that Yemeni children are no different from kids elsewhere, and need entertainment as well as education to grow up properly. He taught five girls and boys ten different forms of specialization, and on January 12th, 2012, “Thraa team” started working as the country’s first independent Puppet Theater.
They have so far offered 32 shows for children, and 42 for older youth, in forums and civil society institutions, using modern media in order to inform people properly.
“We face difficulties in offering our shows in schools, so we call the students’ schools to attend our shows in forums, or civil society institutions.”
Thraa also trains children, and in total, 253 older youths, and 343 children, have been trained in Puppet Theater.
Al-Edlah says that the team has been successful, but has had some difficulties in getting funding for projects like foreign travel because it isn’t an official civil society institution.
“In cooperation with Thraa’s members, I will try to turn the team into a civil society institution. It will be the first institution for Puppet Theater.”
Additionally, the team has little financial backing, mainly because their shows are all free.
“The shows must be free. People don’t realize the importance of puppet theater for their children because of ignorance and bad social conditions. And also, through Thraa, I want to deliver values of peace, right and goodness to a large number of people in my country. Free shows help achieve that mission.”
Thraa was the first organization in Yemen to celebrate World Day of Puppetry on March 27th, and performed for many intellectuals, writers, journalists, and children. It was also the first Arab team to join the Union Internationale de Marionette in September 2013, which was considered to be a formal recognition for Yemeni puppet theater.