Safeguarding of Sicilian Puppet Theatre
This participatory research project addressed recent and current safeguarding measures focused on Sicilian Puppet Theatre (“Opera dei Pupi”), which UNESCO declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001. The project was conducted by the Association for the Preservation of Popular Traditions (“Associazione per la conservazione delle tradizioni popolari”). The research process entailed the engagement of scientific and technical advisors and the active participation of the heritage community, both as research subject and partner. Funding was provided by the Italian Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
The initiative documented the current state of the practice of Sicilian Puppet Theatre and the elements of tangible heritage associated with it, while also surveying active practitioners and collectors. It also identified the cultural, artistic, historical, environmental, scientific and technical challenges associated with this heritage and helped to strengthen the Network of the Opera dei Pupi.
Following this research phase, the research team, in cooperation with puppetry practitioners, identified and set priorities for the most appropriate and necessary safeguarding measures. These recommendations were drafted into the “Plan of Safeguarding Measures of the Opera dei Pupi”, a coherent roadmap for a system of actions leading to a participatory multi-level governance and aimed at promoting and enhancing the tradition of puppetry in Sicily. In addition, the Plan envisions synergies with tourism and the wider cultural, educational, economic and creative spheres, demonstrating how this intangible cultural heritage contributes to the strengthening and support of sustainable, year-round tourism and local development. The guide was published in Italian, English and French to ensure the wider dissemination of the results.
A widespread communication plan was implemented to further share information about the project and to increase visibility of the art of puppetry. An internet portal for Sicilian Puppet Theatre (www.operadeipupi.it) presents and gives access to information about the heritage and current practice of the Opera dei Pupi, drawing on the experiences and histories of several families and companies in the field. The portal also allows Italian and international visitors to find information about upcoming puppetry performances throughout the region. As such, it increases the national and international visibility of Sicilian puppetry, while also creating space for its contemporary and diverse expressions and variants.
“This project is a best practice example for the safeguarding and sustainable management of intangible cultural heritage. Safeguarding of Sicilian Puppet Theatre has successfully responded to the needs of a tradition with ancient origins and has had a real impact on an intangible tradition with specific material elements. It has increased access to this heritage and underlined the value of this specific cultural heritage to sustainability in this region,” emphasised the Awards’ Jury.