From the 21st to the 24th of April several meetings were held in Varadero (Cuba): the Executive Committee ones (on the 21st) and the meetings from UNIMA’s Council (the 22nd, 23rd and 24th), while at the same time the 11th International Puppet Festival of Matanzas was taking place. The Executive Committee meeting was attended by all its members but one, the Nigerian Alheri Kotondi Check Amadou, who could not make it —although he already had the plane tickets— owing to bureaucracy problems that prevented him from leaving the country. The Committee reunion served as a preparation for the Council.

Consejo de Unima en Varapalo-Matanzas, Cuba
Ángel Casado, Rubén Darío, Idoya Otegui, Dadi Pudumjee and Juan Luís Clavijo.

46 councillors from 27 different countries attended the Council held between the 22nd and the 24th of April, along with 28 delegate votes —and therefore the quorum was left established in 74. Among the attendees, the Spanish ones were Ángel Casado (Executive Committee member), Juan Luis Clavijo, and Idoya Otegui (Councillors).

As per usual in these meetings, reports from the Secretary General, Treasurer, and Commissions were displayed —Angel Casado presented the Cultural Exchange Commission’s report, highlighting the new “Bed&Puppets” project and encouraging the members to sign up for it as it is a delightful way to travel and get to meet colleagues from all over the world. Before focusing on more specific topics of special relevance to UNIMA, the National Centre’s reports were also displayed; Juan Luis Clavijo was entrusted to do the UNIMA Spain one.

Consejo de Unima en Varapalo-Matanzas, Cuba
UNIMA’s Executive Committee.

The topics of remarkable significance either presented or discussed were the following:

– The current situation of the English and Spanish versions of the World Encyclopaedia of Puppetry Arts. The English one is already finished, while the Spanish version is complete on a 90 % and expected to be ready by September this year. These versions are not just the translation of the French one, but also a tool to correct mistakes and make up for important absences detected. Both versions are to be edited on digital format and the plan is to upload them onto the webpage. The following steps are, on the one hand, the design and necessary preparation of the page so it can take the Encyclopaedia and, on the other hand, the query for photos to accompany the articles is essential. In that regard, there will be a call upon the National Centres, which should get the pictures copyright-free for the UNIMA to make use of them as long as there are no commercial purposes involved.

– The new and most up-to-date UNIMA web page was shown, and a strong plea both to the National Centres and to the Commissions was made so that through its use it becomes an active communication instrument for the relations between the centres and therefore the members spread around the world themselves. In that sense, comments emphasizing the need to make use of social networks were made, such as Facebook and Twitter, and other digital media, for communication with the members.

Consejo de Unima en Varapalo-Matanzas, Cuba
Manuel Morán, Annette Dabs, Dadi Pudumjee, Jacques Trudeau and Lucile Bodson.

– Another staple matter that was discussed upon was the establishment of an audiovisual and digital banc with the aim of safeguarding and spreading the puppeteer heritage, identifying the endangered traditions as a priority. It was decided that such a task would be carried out by the Heritage Conservation Commission, appointing Jacques Trudeau as the President of the aforementioned commission in the place of the Miguel Arreche, who is no longer among us. In order to perform this task we will count on the UNIMA’s National Centres.

Consejo de Unima en Varapalo-Matanzas, Cuba
Idoya Otegui’s discourse.

– The UNIMA Congress 2016 taking place between Donostia-San Sebastián and Tolosa (Spain) from the 28th of May to the 5th of June was also thoroughly discussed. Idoya Otegui, as the president of UNIMA Spain, introduced the situation of the arrangements of the Congress and the Festival running along. The accent was put on the fact that the real competence of UNIMA is the congress, while the Festival should be the responsibility of the institutions inviting UNIMA to celebrate its Congress on the respective area. In the Festival, whose slogan is “De la Tradición a la Vanguardia” (From Tradition to the Vanguard), companies from all 5 continents are expected to delight us with their spectacles both indoor and on the streets, from the most traditional to the cutting-edge ones. It is not our aim to have a “giant” festival with such a large number of companies that is unreachable for the attendees, but a Festival with a programme that can be enjoyed by all. The Festival will be accompanied by other kinds of activities ranging from exhibitions, workshops and a symposium that will have the collaboration of UNIMA’s Research Commission..

Consejo de Unima en Varapalo-Matanzas, Cuba

UNIMA Spain’s (UFE) goal is that all —from delegates and to puppeteers taking part in the Festival— can enjoy as many activities as they can, therefore attempting that they do not clash on the schedule. With the objective to meet one other target, to get to know each other and having the adequate spaces in order to do so, a space called “Club del Festival” (Festival Club) will be set up, and there the different regional UNIMAs will be in charge of livening up the atmosphere with performances, traditional cuisine from their regions, etc.

Consejo de Unima en Varapalo-Matanzas, Cuba
Greta Bruggeman, Karen Smith, Idoya Otegui, Tito Lorefice and the members of the Bolivian group Titeres Elwaky.

Following the expectations and enthusiasm towards the next Congress, it was made clear for UNIMA Spain, the TOPIC, and the Donostia-San Sebastián 2016 Headquarters that there is much work to do ahead not to disappoint those who attend it.

Leaving the Council aside, and as we have commented on at the beginning of this article-report, meanwhile, in Matanzas, between the 19th and the 27th of April —52 km from Varadero— its International Puppet Workshop was taking place, in which 13 Cuban companies and 24 others from Germany, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Spain, the United States, Finland, Mexico, Nicaragua, the Czech Republic, Uruguay, and Venezuela offered a grand total of more than a 100 performances.

Consejo de Unima en Varapalo-Matanzas, Cuba
IIda Hledikova, Rubén Darío Salazar, Idoya Otegui, Zenen Calero, Nina Monova, Silvia (Rubén’s mother) and Tamiko Onagi.

But that wasn’t all: there were 8 exhibitions, all Cuban but the one entitled “Títeres de Ida y Vuelta: de las Américas a Tolosa” (Round Trip Puppets: from the Americas to Tolosa) offered by the TOPIC from Tolosa, and backed by the Etxepare Institute, consisting on an exposition of 30 photos from Latin American companies that have taken part in Tolosa’s Titirijai. There were also a series of both theoretical meetings and workshops where renowned figures from the puppetry industry were also involved, such as Joan Baixas, Nini Beltrame, Tito Lorefice, Yanisbel Martínez and Enrique Lanz, Greta Bruggemand, and many others who followed until reaching a 26 people.

It is essential to underline the good organization and availability both from the Cuban institutions and from our colleagues from UNIMA Cuba, leaded by the tireless Rubén Darío Salazar, and the whole team that took us in: Sorangel, Denis, Jorge Luis, Mercedes, Sandra, Zenén and René, who all made the work even more bearable. Let it serve as an example, every day started and finished with a little surprise from the island, either in the form of dance, of music… To all of them a huge THANK YOU for the good time that we’ve had the opportunity to enjoy in Matanzas-Varadero. Now it’s time for us to keep on working with the great puppetry event of 2016 in mind.

Idoya Otegui
President of UNIMA Spain
Director of the TOPIC and Titirijai