The Handspring Puppet Company has been awarded the Arts and Culture Trust's (ACT's) Lifetime Achievement Award -- a powerful symbol of recognition for the pioneering puppetry organisation.
The group is the artistic home and base of a group of performers, designers, theatre artists and technicians who in their work and training have revived the centuries-old craft of puppetry to uplift communities and entertain the country –– and the world.
The company was founded by Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler in 1981. At first, they created travelling theatre road shows for South African schools only, but over time they became the genre-defying theatre organisation they are today.
The company creates life-size kinetic puppets, some as big as African elephants –– in 2016, they came up with a triple-storey phoenix. They have worked on productions around the world, collaborating with big-name artists like William Kentridge. One of their productions -- War Horse -- has been seen by seven million people around the world.
The group even use their puppets to support conservation –– their latest work, featuring monumental elephant puppets, is an attempt to draw attention to elephant poaching and the ivory trade in Africa.
Handspring's outreach and community-development programmes throughout the country have seen both Jones and Kohler become recipients of numerous arts and theatre awards, as well as honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Cape Town, but the Lifetime Achievement Award from the ACT Trust is another first for them.
Those unfamiliar with the group can get an insight into their process in the video below: