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Indonesia’s Papermoon Puppet Theater is taking an art form we often associate with children’s stories and turning it into a vehicle for addressing the country’s dark history. The company, started by visual artists Maria Tri Sulistyani and her husband Iwan Effendi, uses whimsical puppets and multimedia performances to recreate personal accounts of the mass jailings and executions that took place in Indonesia in 1965. They are harrowing stories, meant to shed light on the emotion and complexity of a time period often glossed over in contemporary history.
Papermoon’s performances reveal intimate moments of Indonesia’s past, but the company maintains that a discussion of politically driven atrocities is something accessible to international audiences. And the U.S. State Department agreed, recruiting Papermoon for its Center Stage program that will be touring throughout the country this year. Sulistyani and Effendi will be showcasing their work, “Mwathirika,” alongside ensembles from Haiti and Pakistan, sharing their brand of art as an initiative of cultural diplomacy.

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