Union Internationale de la Marionnette

Non-Governmental Organization affiliated to UNESCO


Last updated: 03-06-2024

Celebrating 95 Years of UNIMA at the JEM Festival 2024: A Roundtable on the Culture of Peace

On May 20th, 2024, UNIMA International celebrated its 95th anniversary by hosting a Roundtable on the Culture of Peace at the JEM Festival 2024. The event, held from 10:00 AM to 12:45 PM CET at the historic Théâtre Royal du Peruchet in Brussels, commenced with opening remarks from the General Secretary, Mr. Dimitri Jageneau. Following his introduction, Mr. Nick Newland, President of the UNESCO NGO Liaison Committee, delivered a compelling keynote address.

Madam Karen Smith, President of UNIMA International, then shared a special message, reflecting on the organization’s rich legacy and expressing her hopes for the future as UNIMA approaches its centennial. The roundtable concluded with the announcement of the 2025 UNIMA Members of Honor, presented by Madam Lucile Bodson, a board representative of UNIMA International. The celebration not only honored UNIMA’s 95-year history but also underscored its ongoing commitment to promoting peace through cultural exchange.

Distinguished Speakers and International Representation

The roundtable hosted esteemed guests from around the world, affirming UNIMA’s global impact and its mission to foster peace through the art of puppetry. It was moderated by Madam Svetlomira Stoyanova, President of the UNIMA 2024/2025 Elections Committee, UNIMA Bulgaria.

Speakers included:

  • Madam Nina Malikova, Emeritus Professor and Honorary Member of UNIMA, Czech Republic
  • Mr. Husam Abed, a noted Palestinian-Jordanian artist and researcher
  • Madam Daria Ivanova, President of UNIMA Ukraine. Works at Kyiv National I.K. Karpenko-Kary University of Theatre, Cinema and Television, Heinrich Heine University (Düsseldorf)
  • Mr. Fedelis Kyalo, Vice President of the UNIMA Africa Commission and a representative of UNIMA Kenya
  • Madam Cariad Astles, Professor at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London, President of the Research Commission, and Vice-President of UNIMA International

They were joined by CEOs and representatives from leading theaters across the former Yugoslavia

  • Mr. Edin Kmetas from Puppet Theatre Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mr. Kmetas will reflect on the process of rebuilding puppet theater after the Yugoslav war, the consequences, and ongoing collaboration in the region.
  • Madam Magdalena Lupi Alvir from Rijeka City Puppet Theatre, Croatia
  • Madam Jelena Stojanovic Patrnogic from Theatre for Children and Youth Kragujevac, Serbia
  • Madam Claudia Lamantea from Irish UNIMA, representing the UNIMA Puppetry Collaboratorium in Mostar 2023. Madam Lamantea will share insights from her experience with the UNIMA PC project in Mostar, which was under the patronage of the UNESCO NGO Liaison Committee.

A Nordic Perspective and a Broader International Context

The event also featured a presentation by UNIMA Nordic on an ongoing project involving Ukrainian puppetry arts. This included sharing ideas for puppetry peace-related initiatives from festivals and theater producers, as well as CEOs of puppetry companies.

  • Madam Agneta Attling, Performing Arts Producer specializing in Puppet Theater for Children and Youth, Sweden
  • Madam Tiina Suhonen, CEO of Pisto Puppets, Norway

Short Film Showcase: “Walking Man” by Madam Ko Kyumi

As part of the event, we showcased “Walking Man” by Madam Ko Kyumi from South Korea, a mini-puppetry performance created during the Virtual International Puppetry Residency between the Netherlands and Southeast Asia (SEA). This project underscores the historical connection dating back approximately 500 years to when the Dutch first navigated SEA waters. It encouraged puppeteers and cultural creators to produce mini-puppetry performances that reflect on the shared past, present, and future of our planet, including all life forms.

Historical Significance and a Legacy of Cultural Dialogue

The UNIMA roundtable at the JEM Festival holds particular historical significance as it reflects on a legacy that started with the first International Puppet Festival in Brussels in 1958, the 3rd International UNIMA Congress in Liège in 1930, and notably, the last time such an event was held in Belgium was in Namur in 1980. This year’s roundtable represents only the 4th international UNIMA meeting since 1929, emphasizing the lasting commitment of UNIMA to its mission. Additionally, this year’s roundtable is being held in Belgium while the country is presiding over the Council of the European Union, highlighting the continued importance and central role that Belgium plays in both the European cultural landscape and in international puppetry.

JEM Festival 2024 – A Global Puppetry Showcase

From May 17 to June 9, the JEM Festival hosted 40 shows from 19 different companies, featuring 10 premieres by foreign companies and a special focus on Korean puppetry. This celebration of puppetry arts is a must-see, featuring international talents from 22 different nations.

Video Presentation and Photo Gallery

UNIMA (Union Internationale de la Marionnette) is a global organization affiliated to UNESCO, uniting enthusiasts and professionals who advance puppetry arts worldwide. Our mission embodies the pursuit of peace and understanding across cultures, races, and beliefs, aligning with the core human values outlined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations.

This special event not only celebrated UNIMA’s 95th anniversary but also reinforced our dedication to foster global peace through the art of puppetry.