Egyptian designer Sarah Batrawi
Cairo – Rawda Fouad
One can get quite bored of seeing their reflection in the mirror, or even a statue carved in their likeness. But to see yourself as a Marionette doll is something else altgother, as Egyptian puppet desidner Sarah Batrawi shows us her art.
Arabstoday spoke to the artist about her career, dreams, and future projects:
AT: When did your passion for the art of puppetry start?
SB: I have adored puppets since childhood. I was keen to follow puppet shows, whether Arab or foreign, such as “Bogi and Tamtam” and "The Muppets". As days went by, my love for the art grew and I and became a professional in designing puppets.
AT: Did your studies contribute to your career?
SB: I graduated in art studies, and it helped me learn the art of sculpture, especially portraiture, but I did not learn the art of puppetry academically. There are no high schools or academies to study it in Egypt.
AT: So, how did you learn the art of making puppets?
SB: After my graduation I worked in the Sakiat el-Sawy puppetry theatre, and began to learn how to make a marionette by observing the process...nobody taught me. After a while, I realised there is more to it.... a world of the puppet industry filled with innovation and techniques.
AT: Do you design puppets and perform with them as well?
SB: Yes, I do both. The manufacturing phase is one of focus and innovation, while performing is a state of enjoyment and creativity.
AT: How did you master your manufacturing technique?
SB: At first, I learned how to make it with textured foam, and then a German method for handling them with sticks and strings. However I wanted to learn new techniques on how to develop their shapes, so I downloaded e-books off the Internet on the art of making puppets, and communicated with manufacturers and animators from different countries through social networking sites and their pages. I also checked their videos which taught me a lot.
AT: Have you participated in events outside Egypt?
SB: Unfortunately, that has not happened yet. It is my dream and I am trying to achieve it soon...because I think that interviewing various artists from different cultures will enhance my skills and experiences, and being in a technically rich environment, even for a short period, will help me, as I can temporarily display my work that reflects the culture and environment of Egypt.
AT: What about your new project, "Similar Puppets"?
SB: I considered it after gaining a fair base of knowledge on the manufacture of puppets and how to handle them. I found it was the right time to start a new and innovative idea of my own. The idea is simply making a puppet that looks exactly like a person’s features and body and style. I already began making the first puppet almost a year ago, and I received very encouraging feedback, and started to create a special page on Facebook which many people have joined. They soon asked me to make puppets similar to them or their friends.
AT: What are the materials used in the manufacture of puppets?
SB: I have experimented with many materials, but I always prefer using pulp and foam.
AT: How much time does it take to make a puppet?
SB: I treat the puppet as a piece of art, so it takes about two weeks to manufacture them. I need to prepare three-dimensional images of a person to help me to copy the features of the face and perfect the shape of the puppet.
In case someone asked me to make a quick puppet for a certain occasion, it could take me a week of full-time intensive work.
AT: You once designed a giant puppet, what is its story?
SB: I decided to make something out-of-the-box, using unusual and untraditional sizes and shapes. I collected and pasted some materials together in large quantities and showed it the first time at the Korba Festival in 2012 with the help of five engines.
AT: Tell us in detail about the art of puppetry in Egypt?
SB: I can say that the art of puppetry in Egypt is seeing a revival. Artists have begun to emerge, and independent artists are working hard in many areas of advertising, television and theatre, but the problem lies in the lack of funding for these independent teams, and also the lack of academic courses and places where artists can teach and learn puppetry in order to be qualified for international festivals.
AT: What are your ambitions?
SB: My ambitions have no limits. I wish my ideas and designs to be seen by the world. I also dream of a portable puppet theatre in Egyptian cities and villages.