Puppetry South Africa

UNIMA SA is an Arts organization focused on the art of Puppetry. UNIMA SA works both to develop puppetry arts within South Africa and to use puppetry to promote transformation and social development.

Puppetry is a unique medium, with the power to unite across cultural, language and social divides.

Vision and Mission


The UNIMA SA vision is to see outstanding puppetry arts in South Africa. Our vision is to see the art form widely used to further transformation and in the realization of human values such as integration, peace and mutual understanding.


UNIMA SA’s mission is to promote artistic excellence, social cohesion, cultural awareness, environmental sustainability and economic growth through the power of puppetry.

UNIMA SA consistently innovates new applications for the medium of puppetry to meet identified needs and contribute to achieving its mission and vision.

At UNIMA SA we work to realize our vision by using puppetry as

  • a rich artistic medium for expression
  • a dynamic learning methodology
  • an adaptable tool for powerful communication
  • an effective way to promote diverse thinking, vital to a culture of creativity.
  • a marketable skill for creating employment

As an umbrella organization, UNIMA SA brings together artists working with puppetry in many different contexts; encouraging imaginative and creative expression to foster mature relationships amongst people and encourage care for our environment.

Socio-cultural message transmitted through entertaining puppetry performances can inspire an openness to change, experimentation and innovation, which has the ability to mobilise and educate.

Marie Kruger, Stellenbosch University

History and Evolution

Union International de la Marionette (UNIMA) was the first cultural organization established by UNESCO in 1929 and on-going works to encourage cultural interaction and world peace through the art of puppetry.

UNIMA SA was founded in 1972. UNIMA SA, over the years, celebrated many talented and respected puppeteers as members.

In 2005, we formalized the constitution, registered the organization as an NPO and solicited key players in puppetry, the arts and civil society to the board.

From 2006 to 2015 UNIMA SA operated on a year-round basis, running the 10-day Out The Box International Festival as well as several training and development portfolios.

UNIMA SA has became a thriving social enterprise promoting skills development, sustainable arts practice and creative excellence.

UNIMA SA is currently restructuring to meet current needs and challenges in the field of puppetry and visual performance and in its social context.


UNIMA SA’s activities include a variety of functions, events, trainings and workshops. UNIMA SA has three activity portfolios namely: Out The Box; Active Puppets and Puppets Work. Within these portfolios, activities are run which correspond with our mission.


Out The Box is UNIMA SA’s professional puppetry presentation platform. It focuses on promoting and showcasing high-end and emerging South African puppetry artists and on bringing international puppetry work to South African audiences.

Out The Box pushes the boundaries of puppetry and visual performance, building bridges between artistic and cultural communities and stimulating a love of diversity in the arts.

Out the Box initially ran as a festival but has evolved to include the hosting quality puppetry in theatres and at other South African festivals such as the National Arts Festival and the Cape Town Fringe.

Out The Box produces workshops to provide training to practicing artists in the use of particular puppetry skills.

Out The Box promotes the use of puppetry in stop motion and Film. Workshops introduce artists to skills in the field while screenings bring to the public an array of the newest and most exciting work from around the world.

Festival of Puppetry and Visual Performance

Out The Box festival ran between 2005 and 2011. Out the Box ran as a 10 day festival and hosted over 50 local and international visual theatre productions at each event.  Out Thee Box became a dynamic, international celebration of local and international work.
The festival included puppetry productions for children and adults and a variety of other related events including: art installations, live art pieces; experimental and development platforms; Illustrated talks and conference; exhibitions; practical workshops; street performances and festivities.

Active Puppets

Training and social development

Community theatre groups are mentored in the use of puppetry. Short shows are developed and presented in a competitive Showcase. Selected groups participate in an extensive training program that focuses on professional productions, administration and economic sustainability training.

Active puppets runs and collaborates in urban and rural projects, using the art of puppetry to promote creative confidence, artistic and interpersonal skills and community development. UNIMA SA works with primary school children to develop their self-expression and confidence. We raise funds to train teachers to use puppetry in the classroom.

UNIMA SA frequently places Active Puppets graduates with professional artists and/or arts organisations to further develop professional skills in puppetry and arts administration.

Puppets Work

Unima SA produces professional work creating employment for the graduates of the Active puppets program as well as for established puppet theatre artists. Included in the Puppets Work program are regular performances by giant parade puppets, educational productions and commissioned creations.