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Worlds and Heroes: Openning of the great exhibition of Serbian Puppetry and theatrical creation for children





24th OF APRIL 2013 AT 5 P.M.

Aside from the intention to present respective theatres and their repertoires, to encompass the most prominent and most represented creators in the field, as well as the most successful creations, the aim of the exhibition is to provide insight into aesthetic and content framework shaped in those theatres. Therefore, in addition to exhibits which relate to certain performances, various adaptations of the same textual template, as well as motifs which are thematically and conceptually close, namely different scenic materializations of inner landscapes and intimate inclinations, worlds and heroes have also been grouped into units. 

The setting itself did not follow the chronological sequence of individual theatres or authors, whereas the basic criterion for selection of materials was personal courage of creators in interpreting and expanding the boundaries. 

The honorable sponsor of the Exhibition is the Mayor of Slovene Capital Ljubljana, Mr. Zoran Janković.

Considering the relatively long period covered by this exhibition, the availability of materials has significantly influenced the selection, and as a result, only a part of noteworthy artistic creations is presented. Due to fragility of materials, lack of an institution with adequate storage space, natural disasters or other similar circumstances (during the 1999 NATO bombing Duško Radović Theatre building was severely damaged) a large number of puppets and costumes has not been preserved.

The exhibition World and Heroes was also in the focus of the 20th anniversary Subotica International Festival of Children’s Theatres is Serbian theatrical creation for the youngest audience. After exhibitions of Bulgarian, Hungarian, Croatian, Russian, Slovak, Romanian and Polish puppetry which were held in previous years, this year’s exhibition presents contemporary theatrical creation for children by professional theatres of Serbia and the Republic of Srpska, with special emphasis on puppetry. Puppets, costumes, sketches, photographs and props that are exhibited give evidence of puppet and drama theatre productions which were inspired by children’s literature, fairy tales and folklore heritage from all around the world, and are works by artists from Serbia, the region and beyond.  


Puppet occupies an extremely prominent place in Serbian folklore tradition. Together with mask, it has a particularly dominant role in folk magic rituals and customs which have been preserved to the present day in some communities.

In 1881, the poet and physician Jovan Jovanović Zmaj published a puppet play Nesretna Kafina (Unfortunate Kafina) in Neven magazine. The text was accompanied by illustrations of puppets on sticks made of potatoes, and certain stage directions. The publication of this dramolette marked the beginning of contemporary Serbian puppetry, while Zmaj (Dragon) is considered to be its originator.

In the late 19th century, travelling puppeteers, fair, street and circus entertainers had the main role in spreading puppetry culture. The first known Serbian travelling puppeteer, Ilija Božić, was one of many who amused the present audience with the puppet Todor, Serbian version of the grotesque ‘man of the people’ character, street theatre hero after whom most of the travelling theatres of the time were named Kuku Todore.  Quick-witted roisterer Todor, always in conflict with authority and his boisterous, garrulous wife who inspired the kuku (woe is me) in the name of the theatre, intertwined his fate with the Priest, Devil, Gendarme and, of course, Death, same as it was the case in the performances by travelling puppeteers throughout Europe, up to this day. 

Alongside street theatre, between the two World Wars, the interest for this art has grown within the Sokol movement, under the influence of Sokols who had spent some time in Czechoslovakia, which had a long puppetry tradition. In the thirties of the 20th century starts the real expansion of puppetry on the whole territory of what was then Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Sokolska Prosveta (Sokol Enlightenment) magazineintroduced permanent puppet theatre column in 1932. Two years later, the 2nd Sokol Course for Puppeteers was held in Novi Sad (the first was organized in Ljubljana in 1932), which consisted of physical exercise, lectures on music and oratory, technology and history of puppetry. It was followed by open competitions for puppet plays and their publishing, as well as by establishment of puppet making workshops. Puppet scenes and troupes became active in the whole country, with puppeteers being more professionally organized in Novi Sad (1931) and Subotica (1934).    

After the Second World War, puppet theatres with permanent ensembles and repertoires were founded in Serbia. First established as exclusively puppet theatres, they have over time transformed into theatres which cultivate not only puppetry but also dramatic repertoire, while, on the other hand, there are some in which priority is more often given to live actor.

Another peculiarity of Serbian puppet scene is domination of visiting artists, and the reason for that is the lack of an educational institution for future puppetry professionals in Serbia. In addition to puppeteers from Czech Republic and Poland, in past three decades dominant role have had those from neighbouring Bulgaria, where most of Serbian directors and puppeteers gained their education.

Today there are nine professional theatres for the youngest which are active in Serbia. The following have predominantly puppetry repertoire: Youth Theatre (Novi Sad), Children's Theatre Subotica, in Serbian, Hungarian and Croatian language, Toša Jovanović National Theatre's puppetry scene (Zrenjanin), in Serbian and Hungarian, Niš Puppet Theatre, Pinokio Puppet Theatre (Zemun) and Kragujevac Children's Theatre. Within the repertoire of the Little Theatre Duško Radović, which was founded as puppet theatre, puppet is increasingly less present. Boško Buha Theatre (Belgrade) and Puž Little Theatre (Belgrade) cultivate dramatic repertoire. Puppet and drama theatre performances in Serbian language are presented by Children's Theatre of the Republic of Srpska from Banja Luka as well.  

Some drama theatres occasionally include dramatic and ballet productions for children in their repertoires, and there are also some independent and privately owned groups.

Besides that, Serbian puppet theatre is primarily aimed at children, while occasional attempts at puppetry productions for adults are extremely rare and such creations are, unfortunately, seen only at experimental and alternative theatre festivals. Thanks to individuals such as directors dedicated to this genre, fine and applied artists, talented actors-manipulators, Serbian puppetry marks exceptional creations of high artistic range.  


The exhibition is realized within European Comission’s Puppet Nomad Academy 3 project by the Theatre Museum of Vojvodina, Subotica International Festival of Children’s Theatres and Mini Theatre from Ljubljana as the project leader.



Puppet Nomad Academy 3 is co-financed by the European commission program Culture (2007-2013). The content of communication is solely the responsibility of the author and does not represent in any case the stands of the European commission.



Mini teater cooperates in several European projects co-financed by the European commission program Culture (2007-2013).


The programme and activity of Mini Teater is co-funded by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and the Municipality of Ljubljana - MOL.