Sarah Fennareifschneider, 21, a shadow-puppet teacher from Israel, shared her day with The Bali Times

In the West, puppets are only for children … I want to combine the two worlds.

I usually wake up around 7:30am, have fresh fruit for breakfast and go to school on my bicycle. The school is near Ubud, and it’s only 5km from where I live. When I get there, the children already had math and all the serious subjects, so I am free to play with them for a while, teaching them yoga, or football. I think being an educator is a big responsibility, because you can do so much with a good education. These children are the future generations, so what I am doing is very important to me.

After 10am, I help out in the school, do whatever I can do. When I am done, I spend an hour with the kids, and usually do a little lecture for them about shadow puppets in Bali.

Here, shadow puppets are very common, but they are not for kids, as they are linked to philosophy and religion. This is funny, because in the West, puppets are only for children. So what I want to do is to combine the two worlds by showing the pupils how to use the puppets; it’s not like I’m bringing something new anyway, because they’re already familiar with the traditional Balinese plays.

Most of the children are between 5 and 7 years old, which are the best ages to do this, because that’s the time when they realize the difference between what they see and what other people see: They move puppets and people see shadows. Most of the time, I ask the children to bring an object they like: it can be a hat, a doll, anything. Then we turn those objects into characters, invent a story and make a script for the play. Once, an American dalang (puppet master) even did a traditional Balinese play for them, but in English, which is interesting because those plays are usually in Kawi, a language people don’t understand because it’s not used anymore. After they saw the show, the kids were very inspired, and motivated to do the same.

I think playing with the puppets is very good for them, because while doing so, they are storytellers, actors and spectators. Creating puppets is therapeutic. As this is my project, I can organize it the way I want, but most of the time I let the kids do their own things.

We stop around 12pm, and everybody take a break. We all sit together and eat Balinese food. After that, I move to my next class, with older children, who are between 8 and 10. With them, I do theatre exercises, and teach them how to be a united class by doing social games. They also created a play, and everybody is taking part in it, moving the puppets, or creating the stage using cardboard. As I study children’s psychology and theatre art, using shadow puppets is the best I can teach them, and I think it helps a lot.

When the courses are finished, we will all have a show in front of the parents, but for me the performance is the least important thing. The kids just need creativity. They need to be actors, to pretend, and as this is a common project, it makes them conscious of the fact that if somebody does something bad, it will have an impact on everybody’s work.

I would like to continue my work when I go back to Israel, but this time mixing Israelis and Palestinians children. Because in my country, peace is only a concept, an idea, but if we could teach the pupils how to work together, they wouldn’t be so much hatred. Now that is all we are teaching them: hatred.

As a teacher, I don’t want my pupils to be quiet. I want them to talk, to express themselves. They don’t think inside the box yet; they are always asking a lot of questions, and are actually teaching me a lot.

I work until 2:30pm, and after my job is over, I usually spend some time writing on my journal. At 4pm, I meet my dalang, who shows me how to make puppets, to do the voices. Sometimes it’s difficult, because in order to be a good puppet master, you have to have a very pure life.

The screen of the stage represents the universe, the banana trunk we use to stick the puppets represents the earth and the sun is symbolized by a coconut oil lamp. It means the masters plays God, give life to puppets. This is why in Bali puppets are not for children. But when you give objects to children, they will give it life anyway; so if you apply it to education, that’s even better.

I stop working with my Dalang at 7 or 8pm, and when I get home, I am really exhausted, because this job requires a lot of energy, even if it makes me feel very welcomed in the school.

At night I do some yoga or meet some friends, and go to bed around 11 or 12.

Filed under: One Day

One Response to “”

  1. Gunter Golde Says:

    My daughter Erika lives in Amirim, Israel, and her 8-year old daughter is learning shadow puppets. Do you have an e-mail address in case my daughter wants to contact you (I have forwarded the article to her). Her email address is
    My wife and I will be staying in Penestanan (Ubud) from Jan. 19 for a few weeks. In the past we have been volunteering for the Bali Children’s Project.

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