Most puppet businesses close down amid COVID-19 crisis

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A man is making puppets with wood at a stall in Amarapura Township, Mandalay Region.

Low income in wooden puppet production has failed to attract new generations in this business, and most puppet crafting markets have been shut down in Amarapura Township of Mandalay Region amid the current COVID-19 crisis.
The puppet market mainly targets to international tourists and domestic tourists in Myanmar. Many of puppet businesses have also been shut down due to the sluggish tourism industry at present.
The puppets are made of teak wood and cost more than 800 kyats for a small crafted puppet and 900 kyats for gold embroidery. It takes time to make a puppet since it needs painting and string work. A puppet sculptor earns just over 5,000 kyats only if he crafts persistently and there are fewer students who learn the puppet making as the market is relatively regular. The price of a puppet to a wholesaler is 3,500 kyats and it is over 4,000 kyats or 5,000 kyats as the retail price. The puppets are sold only in the high season of tourist. In the puppet industry, there are very few orders for dancing puppets, and only puppets are sold as gifts.
With the cessation of travel services, the puppet business was shut down.
Puppets used to be made of Yamane wood, but now they are made of Teak, and they are divided into animal figures and human figures.
As for animal figures, elephants, horses, tiger figures are carved mostly. In making animal figure puppet, it needs to make the head part and tail part in detail.
It is systematically drilled and attached to the strings to allow the joints to move.
The carving of up to eight small puppets in elephant and horse figures can be completed a day and after, painting and putting gold embroidery can be done. Although puppet making takes hard work with hand-made gold embroidery to get a fully completed puppet, they are less profitable.
According to a puppet artist, the traditional Myanmar puppetry art will be tarnished since there are only a few young people of the new generation who learn the puppetry due to its long learning period and fewer benefits.—New Nadi, Myit Nge (Translated by Ei Phyu Phyu Aung)

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