Nov 28 2012

Join the 2013 Siem Reap Giant Puppet Parade

Published by at 2:11 am under Festivals

If you are struggling to pinpoint a date for a trip to Siem Reap, this might just help. Saturday February 23, 2013 is the confirmed date for next year’s Giant Puppet Parade. The parade has become such a highlight of the Siem Reap social calendar that visitors in the know now deliberately plan their temple pilgrimage to coincide with this annual nocturnal spectacle. In 2012 more than 12,000 people gathered to watch 600 local children carry their giant, beautifully illuminated hand-made puppets through the streets of Siem Reap.

For the best views it pays to plan early.

2013 promises to be even bigger and better with organisers planning for some 15,000 spectators. There is talk of a designer from Game of Thrones lending her expertise to help create even more spectacular puppets than ever, and this year the aim is for every giant puppet be rigged for sound as well as lighting.

Rigged for light and wired for sound; Asian elephant giant puppet.

So enough with the gushing superlatives, what is it all about?

Arts and crafts are not taught in Cambodian schools so when The Giant Puppet Project was set up in 2007 it gave hundreds of children in Siem Reap’s schools and NGOs a unique opportunity to express their creativity with the added attraction of culminating in the magical parade itself, providing the perfect showcase for their beautiful handiwork.

In the weeks leading up to the project children attend workshops where they design and build their giant creations. The puppets are constructed from rattan, paper, sticky tape and glue, and all are rigged with electrical lighting which literally makes them glow in the dark.

Puppet making masterclass: Children create a giant green gecko.

The children work alongside local artists and puppet makers from Phare Ponleu Selpak, the celebrated Battambang Art School in northwestern Cambodia, and British co-founder Jig Cochrane, who has also worked on art installations for the Glastonbury Festival in the UK and Burning Man Festival in the USA.

The puppets celebrate traditional Cambodian culture and endangered indigenous wildlife and have included Bokator athletes — an ancient Khmer martial art — the pangolin, and the Asian elephant which last year was the first puppet to be rigged with sound as well as lighting. The Angkor Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation and the Sam Veasna Wildlife Conservation Centre advise on the creation of the animals’ effigies, and help to educate the children taking part on the importance of wildlife conservation.

Pugilistic puppet: A proponent of the ancient Khmer martial art of Bokator.

Stay tuned for a post closer to the date on where to position yourself for the best views!

All photos courtesy of the Giant Puppet Parade.

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