Puppetry is an ancient and traditional form of theatre and storytelling in the Arab world, one with vast potential for ongoing cultural and societal relevance. Throughout history, puppets have proven to be of great importance in Arab cultures and this practice continues to have a unique role in shaping societies today. The project’s main aim is to preserve the history of puppetry through a publication available as a research resource both online and in libraries, in addition to keeping a well-preserved digitized collection.

With the generous support of the Gerda Henkel Foundation, APTF has been working on the ambitious project Preserving the History of the Arts of Puppetry in the Arab World since 2019. The main goal of this project has been to preserve the puppetry heritage of the Arab world by identifying collections of relevance to Arab puppetry; assessing their needs in terms of restoration and conservation of puppets and artefacts; as well as the overall preservation through making this material available through our newly-created online museum.

Over the course of the project (2019-2021), we have digitised already 100 VHS and tapes, over 2,500 photos of puppets and puppetry-related material, over 120 articles written about puppetry and about 85 book covers and promotional posters. The work focused on the collections of our partner institutions and practitioners across the Arab region, especially in countries where the cultural heritage is particularly at risk of being destroyed irreversibly (like for example Tunisia, Iraq, and Sudan), as well as materials that are part of our own collection.