Handspring Puppets have been featured in a number of exhibitions and are part of several art collections around the world. Handspring also produced an exhibition of Malian Puppets, in conjunction with the production Tall Horse. Outlined below are exhibitions which featured Handspring puppets and/or were produced by the company.


handspring puppet exhibitions

Living Things 2012

KKNK festival Oudtshoorn
Curated by Janni Younge and Adrian Kohler

The Klein Karoo Kunstefees, one of South Africa’s largest and best established arts festivals, selects a featured visual artist every year for solo exhibition at the festival.

As the selected visual Artist for the KKNK 2012, Handspring Puppet Company chose to exhibit puppets from the productions that were performed in the preceding 2 years and that are in line for further international touring. These puppets are ‘living things’ as they are inanimate forms brought to life in performance, and are currently in use.

This exhibition showcased puppets from WarHorse, Ouroboros, Woyzeck on the Highveld and Or You Could Kiss Me. The exhibition featured Topthorn, a life size horse from WarHorse, rearing up on his hind legs. It highlighted the design innovations made by Adrian Kohler and Janni Younge on each production.

handspring puppet exhibition - at arms length

At Arms Length – The art of African Puppetry 2006

Produced by the Museum for African Art of the USA
World Trade Centre, New York
Curated by Adrian Kohler and Janni Younge

At Arm’s Length: The Art of African Puppetry presented nearly 100 animated puppets, marionettes, and puppet sculptures used in traditional and contemporary theatrical performances from Handspring and the Sogolon Puppet Troupe from Mali. Puppets were juxtaposed to performance videos and photographs, demonstrating the creative possibilities of a true synthesis of the arts of two geographically distinct and historically separate regions.

The Sogolon Puppet Company in Mali was founded by master sculptor and puppeteer, Yaya Coulibaly. Puppet theater in Mali is a popular form of entertainment among the Bamana people. Performances employ animal and human puppets, masks, storytelling, music, and dance to explore both current events and ancient beliefs. Often satirical, the performances give youth an opportunity to comment on current events, engage in social criticism, and perfect their skills as artists and performers. Coulibaly collaborated with Handspring on the production Tall Horse. Some of the puppets from Tall Horse are included in the exhibition along with many puppets from the Coulibaly family collection.

At Arm’s Length included puppets from several Handspring productions including Faustus, Ubu and the Truth Commission, The Chimp Project, Woycek on the Highveld, and Tall Horse. These puppets show the diverse influences from traditions of puppet theater around the world. Japanese Bunraku, Indonesian shadow puppets, German and Malian rod puppets, and contemporary theater are all incorporated into Handspring’s performances.

Patrimony 2004–2005

Presented in various venues across South Africa including the Irma Stern Museum, Cape Town and Museum Africa, Johannesburg.
Curated by Janni Younge
Produced by Handspring Puppet Company

Patrimony, an exhibition of Bamana Puppets from Mali, featured puppets from the extensive family collection of Yaya Coulibali.

The puppets selected for Patrimony represent the artistic expression of an ancient and extremely complex culture. The puppets and masks were classified for the exhibition according to their form and function.

Several different styles of Banana performing objects were represented, Meren (giant figures) Maaniw (small rod puppets) Sogo (large antelope and other animal puppets), Masks, Ci-wara (headdresses) and even divers forms such as contemporary marionettes. The puppets’ functions, ranging from ritual practice to popular entertainment were outlined in a detailed catalogue.

Download Catalogue here. (Scanned PDF)

handspring puppet exhibition

Episodes 2001–2003

Presented in various venues across South Africa including Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Curated by Adrian Kohler
Coordinated by the Goodman Gallery

An installation of puppets from seven productions created over sixteen years, Episodes represented a retrospective of Handspring’s work at the time. The exhibition included 50 puppets from early works such as Episodes of an Easter Rising through to Faustus in Africa, Ubu and the Truth Commission and Il Riturno D’Ulisse.
William Kentridge on Episodes: “The puppets as objects work not simply as a more or less naturalistic mimesis of the world but as objects that bring with them lessons on the limits and in strength of our rational selves. They prove us unable to control our more powerful and primitive urges to to construct sense.

Out of performance- on exhibition of as objects – they still operate in the same way. They are so palpably applied that they lead us back to their life and use beyond the exhibition.

The Fact that the puppets are not made for themselves but another – for the stage production – is the what gives them their strength as sculptural objects. There are formal innovation, leaps of imagination prompted, prodded and given by the by the context in which the sculptures are made that they would never emerge if left simply to a free floating imagination.

The puppets are in service of the production – but the productions themselves are also a cumberstone arcane way of producing the puppets as sculptures.”

Download Catalogue here. (Scanned PDF)