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Parading puppets

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The puppets are almost assembled, the workshops nearly complete.

One of Siem Reap’s biggest annual events, the Giant Puppet Project, is just a week away.

Its artistic director Jig Cochrane says it’s going to be the best yet. “The puppets are bigger than we’ve ever had before. We’ve got some giant animals coming and people are going to have to get out of the way – they’re coming, you have been warned.”

This is the sixth year of the project, which fuses art and education.

"It’s basically a three week program,” explains project director, Stuart Cochlin. “The first week is artists' workshop week. So the volunteers and the artists from abroad come here along with Jig, and this year they went to the Phare Ponleu Seplak in Battambang, working with 30 students from the Fine Arts department.”

This week saw children from 15 organisations around town take part in workshops to build the massive lantern creations. “Most of the children have come from the NGOs who are working with kids in very poor parts of town. We do have privileged kids come from the international schools and we mix them in ... everyone’s playing football by the end of it.”

This year will see eight giant illuminated creatures making their way through town, all in keeping with the projects education-through-art concept.

“Every year, it’s always a mixed bag of puppets,” says Stuart. “Some are endangered species in Cambodia, such as the clouded leopard, the Bengal Florican and the pangolin. Then we have Bokator Martial Arts, which is seeing a resurgence, and a Khmer scholar which is sponsored by the Centre for Khmer Studies, which is very fitting.”

Jig says officially 500 children will walk in the parade, but it could be closer to 1,000 once their pals join in. “The kids get an enormous sense of pride they walk through town with these amazing things and the whole town is applauding."

The Giant Puppet Project costs US$12,000 a year to stage, and the annual lucky draw fundraiser will be held this Saturday at Abacus at 8pm. With over $2,500 worth of loot up for grabs, tickets are $5 and available at The Warehouse, Miss Wong’s, Abacus and from the crew on the night.

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