Dating from the 15th Century, marionette performances (zat) in Burma were used more for education and communication than entertainment, and were important for making social comments and instructions bi-directional between the King and his subjects. (The use of puppets to present otherwise taboo or sensitive subjects to a conservative audience is still embodied in contemporary Japan, where animation is far more lurid than acted films.)
Performances usually begin around 8:30 PM, and often last until dawn, depending on subject and main characters (performances are still being given in Burma), unless done for a foreign audience.
There are generally 28 different puppets in a troupe, with at least 8 more supplementary characters which can be added. They include nobility, the less than noble, and a full assortment of personalities one would find at any medieval court, as well as a menagerie of animals, ogres, and dieties.
We’ve put together a small collection of the more colorful and bizarre of these marionettes. Although not antiques, they have been made with traditional methods and materials, including all hand- stitching, and are of the highest quality.
For a lovely small book on the subject of the Burmese marionettes (their history, methods of construction, and social importance), with numerous illustrations, please see Ma Thanegi’s The Illusion of Life.
All of our Burmese marionettes have found new homes.