VINTAGE PUPPETS & PUPPET HEADS
Burmese puppetry: yok-thei
Puppetry has been popular in Burma since the latter part of the 17th century. This is in contrast to shadow puppetry which has been less popular than in Thailand & Malaysia. The origin of puppetry in Burma is obscure. Despite the late development in Burmese cultural history, Yok Thei or Burmese Puppetry, preceded drama & clearly influenced it but remained more popular. This may have been partly due to the social convention that prevented unmarried men & women from appearing together on stage, hindering the development of drama. But, whatever the reason, puppetry shows were considered to be serious entertainment for adult audiences rather than for children.
Puppet shows were patronized by the Burmese kings who had official Thabin-wun, at court who was in charge of performances. The themes of the plays are taken from stories of the Buddha's previous births, Jatakas & incidents in Burmese history. As well as providing entertainment these had a moral element such as the triumph of virtue over life & acted as an outlet for popular comment on political affairs.
The traditional group of puppets is 28, which includes animals, courtiers, a king, a prince & clowns.
Every Road Leads Somewhere: A Burmese Saying