Giant Animal Puppets Launch 20,000-km Trip to Raise Climate Awareness

Giant Animal Puppets Launch 20,000-km Trip to Raise Climate Awareness

A puppeteer displays a life-size puppet of a wild animal at the launch of “The Herds” in London on June 27.

LONDON (Reuters) — Life-sized lion and antelope puppets took their first steps at the London launch of a new public art project that will see them embarking on a 20,000-kilometer trek from central Africa to northern Europe, symbolically fleeing from the effects of climate change.

“The Herds” is the latest project from the team behind “Little Amal,” a giant puppet of a Syrian girl that toured the world to highlight the plight of refugee children.

Next year, the animal puppets will travel from the Congo Basin to northern Norway, with their herd expanding along the way.

“The idea is that a group of animals starts fleeing because of climate change and as they go from city to city, they will add more native species, more endemic species and the herd grows and grows,” artistic director Amir Nizar Zuabi said.

Organizers plan to engage local communities in stopover towns and cities and provide them with training and resources.

“Obviously ‘Little Amal’ has been a massive learning curve. We learned a lot. I think the main lesson is local knowledge, planted in real partnerships in local cities, with local citizen groups, with local civic society. It is what gives this the engine, the honesty, it’s what propels it,” said Zuabi.

To facilitate the process, the puppets are made of easily accessible art materials, such as cardboard and plywood. The prototypes have been designed by Zuabi and the Ukwanda Puppets and Designs Art Collective in South Africa with students at London’s Wimbledon College of Arts testing out patterns and building the puppets.

The animals, which are zoologically accurate in size, not only need to look realistic but must also be sturdy to survive the long journey, said designer and puppeteer Craig Leo.

“We had to come up with some real technical solutions because we’re working in biodegradable materials only,” he said.

“There’s nothing here that will not return to the Earth over a period of time. But we had to find ways to create structures that will not break down too quickly.”

In bringing the animals to urban settings, Zuabi hopes to remind people of the beauty of wildlife and nature.

“We are theater people,” he said. “We want to tell a story that evokes an emotional reaction. And we believe that if you do that, you will also create action.”

Giant Animal Puppets Launch 20,000-km Trip to Raise Climate Awareness

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