Puppetry Wizards

Posted by on 05/06/2014

Jeff Whaitaima toro pikopiko

Jeff and Whaitaima Addison are creating magic and storytelling in an unique way today and tomorrow at the Waihi Community Marae and Waihi Beach School.

The creative couple specialise in te Ao Maori storytelling using their own range of hand made Maori puppets.

They set up Toro Pikopiko Puppet Theatre in 1995 and have developed learning programmes based on traditional Maori concepts that incorporate the puppets.

Establishing their puppet shows when their daughter was attending Kohanga Reo, they went on to create te Reo Maori radio programmes and then developed 70 episodes of Toro Pikopiko featuring their stories and puppets for Maori Television.

The shows are designed to be interactive with children and adults getting the opportunity to participate in the performances.

Jeff and Whaitaima have also formulated an interactive multilingual maths learning programme called Number Haka which is based on the kapahaka principle of putting actions to words.

The story they are presenting while they are in Waihi will feature 12 puppets and is 40 minutes long. It is called 'Apo the Greedy Taniwha' and includes songs, music and lots of movement. The story will be followed by 20 minutes of Number Haka and readings from 'The Big Letterhead Book' which involves letterhead puppets which are used to encourage the children to make up words and phrases.

Jeff is the creative force behind the stories and Whaitaima said the ideas bypass her and go straight to Jeffrey. It's not uncommon for him to suddenly be picking up the guitar to write songs and scripts and then it's out with the tools to build puppets for his next creation.

Over the years they have made over 200 puppets and some are now used in learning workshops with children and teachers practising puppetry. They also provide professional development workshops to encourage teachers to develop a love of puppetry as they do. Their vision is to help teachers to apply the use of puppetry in their workplace.

The puppets range in size and some of them are two metres tall. They are described as 'sideways centric plywood kinetic moving puppets' that move in all sorts of interesting ways.

Children are able to engage with the puppet performers and join in the show.

Click play to hear the interview.

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