Theatre Design students create giant puppets for Paa Joe & The Lion

NTU students have created giant puppets that were used as part of a documentary about Paa Joe, a Ghanaian fantasy coffin maker.

NTU students have created giant puppets that were used as part of a documentary about Paa Joe, a Ghanaian fantasy coffin maker.

Paa Joe, whose real name is Joseph Ashtong, is an artist and pioneer of the fantasy coffin craft, and well known in Ghana for his extraordinary talent. In the past Paa Joe was sought out by US Presidents and art galleries, but is now facing great difficulties. Nottingham-based film-maker Ben Wigley found out about Paa Joe's work and troubles and decided to create a documentary about this legendary craftsman.

For a month during summer 2013 Paa Joe completed a residency at the National Trust's Clumber Park, where he crafted a lion coffin. As part of the finale of the residency, there was a grand celebration of the coffin which involved dancers, African percussionists, fire spinners and giant puppets, as it travelled around the park and across the lake.

NTU's puppetry specialist Sean Myatt was approached by the Paa Joe and The Lion team to see if our students could create giant puppets for the grand finale event. Working with Year Two Theatre Design students, Sean helped them to design and build three puppets that took part in the procession around Clumber Park.

The students worked together in groups, each taking charge of a key role such as technicalities, costume making, structure building and creating and painting the face.

Student Layla Brookes said: "Seeing my design come to life as an 11ft project was amazing! It was exciting to be part of the gala event and knowing we were creating a puppet to be part of a bigger performance gave us extra motivation."

Sean told us: "The benefit to the students to be able to share their work with existing and new collaborators outside the University is hugely beneficial and gives them the confidence and also possible future links to professional industry."

The students' puppetry performance will feature in Ben's documentary, Paa Joe and The Lion, which is now in the final stages of filming.

Visit Paa Joe to find out more about Paa Joe and The Lion.

Theatre Design students create giant puppets for Paa Joe & The Lion

Published on 13 January 2014
  • Category: School of Art & Design

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