Puppet Origin Stories: Ah Keng
In 2020, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, we spoke to the Makers and Designers of the puppets we have in The Finger Players (TFP), to create the repository that is the Puppet Origin Stories – a humble effort to highlight the background, and the making and design history of these puppets. We hope that this can be a continued endeavour at TFP, and we hope that you can go on this journey with us.
Ah Keng was made in 2012 when The Finger Players Co-Founders Tan Beng Tian and Ong Kian Sin flew to Taipei, Taiwan for a two-week residency at Bamboo Curtain Studios in Zhuwei (竹圍). Inspired by the historical sites of Zhuwei as well as the rapid urbanization that it was going through, they decided to make a puppet that would uniquely capture the essence of the fishing harbour that Zhuwei was famous for.
Rather than starting from scratch, the two instead decided to create the puppet by remodelling Mr Right, a puppet that was made for the 2004 production of Pigs Can Fly.
The name Zhuwei originates from how the first Aboriginal settlers built their home. Bamboo was planted around their houses to mark their territory, and as a form of protection against strong wind. Within Zhuwei, there is also an important body of water known as the Plum Tree Creek.
The Plum Tree Creek is an important life source of the first Aboriginal settlers, as well as for the animals, flora and fauna that resided around it. Ah Keng was made from both natural materials (e.g. twigs, leaves, branches) and man-made materials (e.g. plastic, Styrofoam). As these were materials that they encountered while on an excursion to the Plum Tree Creek, Ah Keng was thus “born” in the mountains. The following clip follows his journey down the creek, to the Tamsui River, and into the rapidly modernized city.
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