“The starry sky above me and morality within me. These two things I do not have to search for or merely conjecture beyond my horizon, as if they were shrouded in darkness or placed in a transcendent region, I see them before me, and I attach them immediately to the consciousness of my existence.” (Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, Part II, Methodology, Conclusion)
Dear National Center Presidents, Representatives, Colleagues, Members, Friends,
Faced with the catastrophic upheavals and human crises of our times – the increasingly devastating wildfires, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes that are occuring with ever increasing frequency, season after season, on both hemispheres . . . let alone the global threat from the melting of the glaciers and the poles, the pollution of the air, the acidification of the seas and the rising oceans that will lastingly affect more and more human lives on our planet if not allayed . . . and now the tragic consequences of a global pandemic that paralyzes and strikes many countries in turn – faced with these ever-growing climatic threats to our very lives and to the life of our ever vulnerable planet, we are also witnesses – or victims – to national political crises that affect not only a country’s citizens but also the world at large. If we take just one catastrophe as an example – the coronavirus pandemic – we have to ask ourselves such questions as: “How can we continue to create as artists in a world affected by COVID? How can we continue – indeed, can we continue? – what was believed possible yesterday into tomorrow? How can we accept the fact that music, indeed all the arts, can be banned in a country due to a changed political reality?”
The mechanisms are such that currents of thought and decision-making “on high” are pushing hope into increasingly irreversible entrenchments and crises. We must respond, at least try “on the ground” to counteract these mechanisms of horror. We are overcome with shame. We do not accept. And we do not wish to give up. The consequences of doing nothing plunges us into the immediacy of a growing disaster. To which, I urgently believe, we must respond, act.
And now to UNIMA.
The future projects of our organization aim to confront the question of sustainability and this “ecology of the sign”, that is the puppet theatre (Michel de Ghelderode). But we cannot remain in our ivory tower and look at the world and more particularly at the stakes of the different worlds, such as that of the puppetry arts, from a position apart from what is going on in the world. This question is more and more a part of our contemporary reality. We have to realize that some of the member countries of our organization are threatened on the front lines by these climatic and environmental changes.
But not only do we need to address the issue of sustainability, but also the issue of the political crisis. For instance, the crises currently underway in Afghanistan and Myanmar. How can we help puppeteers living under the threat of being killed by a regime? How can we attempt to save those in danger? And how can we offer them creative energy and the means by which their art does not perish, like themselves, into a programmed disappearance? Here, again, we must react, we must act, and we must propose some solutions.
As with all the crises that UNIMA, as an organization, has had to face, even at the time of its foundation in 1929, its response has included projects of cooperation, physical and now more often virtual meetings, increased communication, workshops, training, festivals and exchanges. Just as we developed the ResiliArt project in 2019, part of the UNESCO initiative, we must continue to propose projects that build on such practices of solidarity and international partnerships. We need to continue to develop a greater presence and visibility and sets of strategies that would bring our members and puppet artists closer together. We need to build on the network of emergency support for artists/puppeteers who are in danger. We need to develop an aid programme for Afghan artists in exile, because we cannot afford to think that there will no longer be any creations coming out of Afghan puppet theatres by their artists. And we need to respond to other nationals who are displaced. In terms of “International Partnerships”, UNIMA needs to rethink our North-South relations, the visibility of our organization in relation to other international non-governmental organizations. We need to support a network of exchange between artists and academics, as well as nurture national and international recognition of our arts in all the member countries. There is also a need for the renewal of the democratic practices, including ensuring decentralization, in all of the UNIMA national centres. There also needs to be more training. And an encouragement of discovering other cultures’ puppetry arts. Both would lead to a broader, more truly international representation of the puppetry arts at international festivals dedicated to puppetry. These efforts would strengthen and further legitimize our organization. Such proposals are part of the stakes of our organization, which we wish to reaffirm even more strongly than ever, faced as we are with the crises and the disasters that confront us.
We call on you now to please participate in the full programme organized during the Festival Mondial des Théâtres de Marionnettes (FMTM) of Charleville-Mézières that begins on Friday, the 17th, through to Sunday, the 26th September. All our UNIMA activities and meetings – the Happy Apéros and the thematic meetings – will be held from Sunday, the 19th, to Friday, the 24th September, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm (CET). They will be virtually doubled via social networks, except for the “European creation”, a performance titled Douanes, which we hope you will be able to discover in your country’s programming. A “verre de l’amitié” – a toast of friendship – will also take place on 22 September from 11: 00 am (CET). We invite you all to join us and participate in all these meetings and activities.
For the communication of events and projects, we request that you prepare your announcement with a visual and in the three official languages of UNIMA posted directly on our website at the following sites:
We would also like to officially welcome the new UNIMA Tunisia national centre, as well as four new international representatives in Zambia, Congo, Uganda, and Trinidad and Tobago. Welcome to you all! Let us also welcome Yacouba Magassouba, the new president of UNIMA Mali!
Our imagination is our capacity to decentralize in order to discover the other. Giving strength to this imagination against a principle of reality that obliges us to accept the unacceptable and to reverse it characterizes this desire to invent and create. Or quite simply the desire to imagine differently, to imagine something else. Such is the challenge of our international organization, a call, loud and clear, to the power of the puppet as an awakening of the human being.
General Secretary of UNIMA