JEDDAH: An aspiring Saudi chef has decided to turn his passion for puppets into a side job and help spread the importance of hand puppet storytelling.
The profession has long been a part of children’s entertainment in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia.
Ahmed Al-Amoudi, 21, is a tourism, hotel and hospitality management student who aims to major in culinary arts. He began his journey with hand puppets in December 2018.
“I have loved puppets since childhood, but I never thought that I would be a puppet maker and become a puppeteer one day,” Al-Amoudi told Arab News.
The young puppeteer auditioned for a local performance in 2018 for a character with a split personality.
“I had a basket in which I used only puppets for the role, three months after this casting they asked if I could make a puppet show,” he said. “When they saw that I created puppets of actors and singers, they really liked the idea and I was in high demand at festivals.”
Al-Amoudi has so far created almost 140 puppets. He performs with more than 30 different characters in a 10-minute show.
Most of the puppets he created are real-life characters, such as Egyptian children’s show personalties Bogy, Tamtam and Fatouta, Egyptian infamous serial killers Raya and Sakina, Egyptian actresses Sherihan and Soad Hosny, and Egyptian comedy series Bakiza Wa Zaghloul.
He has also created puppets of Egyptian singers such as Umm Kulthum, Sayed Mekawy and Abdel Halim Hafez.
Al-Amoudi is currently working on creating his own original characters.
“This hobby means everything to me because it was able to gather all the hobbies that I love, such as writing, voice acting, directing the show, designing puppets and designing the puppets’ theater as well,” he said.
“Through this hobby also people started to know me and liked what I offer.”
Al-Amoudi loves writing and storytelling as they take him away from reality, where he can change “what I want through writing.”
Before presenting at any show, the puppeteer performs in front of his family and friends first. “They were among my strongest supporters, especially my grandfather Ahmed. I was afraid in my first show, but I was shocked by how well people received this type of art.”
He learned voice acting and scenario writing for puppets through the shows.
Al-Amoudi’s performances were enjoyed not only by children but all age groups. “In the beginning, I thought that I was doing shows for children, but the result was that adults were waiting for the show more than children,” he said. “Most of my shows became family shows.”
Puppetry has a special place in entertainment in the Kingdom but it needs more support.
Although there are not many hand-puppet storytelling performances, any festival with a puppet show is always crowded, he said.
“My colleagues and I are working to re-spread this type of art because it is genuine, fun and it brings the whole family together. It must make a strong comeback.”