Mandalay puppeteers raise funds for cyclone victims

Sep 1, 2008 (DVB), A Mandalay marionette troupe is preparing to travel to cyclone-affected areas this week to donate aid materials worth 10 million kyat to survivors of Cyclone Nargis.

Aid donations to victims of the cyclone which swept the Irrawaddy delta area of Burma and killed more than 100,000 in early May have been gradually decreasing.

A member of the troupe said they planned to visit two villages in Kunchangone township to donate rice, blankets and mosquito nets to two hundred households over the coming week.

"We are not going there on a marionette show tour but as friends of the Mandalay marionette troupe," the troupe member said.

"We donated 200,000 kyat from marionette shows at the onset of Nargis. This time, it is a donation from us and our friends," she said.

"Yesterday, an abbot gave me some robes [for monks], and other people have given us clothes. We are taking them all."

Mandalay is a popular destination for tourists and marionette shows are one of the city's major attractions.

But the troupe member said that while the shows are performed daily in a playhouse that holds 60 people, not many young Burmese people are interested in attending.

"Foreigners are interested in our art. As for the Burmese, as you know, rock, rap and modern music are deeply ingrained among young people," the troupe member said.

"We have to try very hard to keep the tradition going. I said in an interview that I am very disappointed by the fact that the applause of Burma is not as loud as that of the world," she said.

"We are constantly performing around the world. It is an ancient art, it is very antique, so kids and young people age are not interested in it. It is such a pity," she went on.

"There are puppets in every country, but Burmese puppetry is the best in the world and very well respected by people all over the world."

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

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