mamulengo (Hand Puppet)

About this object

History of use

The puppet represents a character from a form of popular puppet theatre, found in northeastern Brazil, called mamulengo. This type of theatre is prevalent in disenfranchised communities with ancestral ties to colonized Indigenous peoples and uprooted, enslaved Africans. Mamulengo performances are entertaining events that can last all night long, with puppeteers (mamulengueiros) using 70 to 100 puppets in one staging. The stages are pop-up stands (empanadas), made of brightly coloured, floral-printed cloth. The shows consist of short sequences (passagens), or skits from popular stories that expose the inequalities and dramas of everyday life, profiling stock characters such as rich landowners and peasant labourers. The whole is spun together with humour, satire, lively music, and audience commentary.

Physical description

Mamulengo hand puppet of a 'Boizinho' or bull character. The body is carved from wood and painted. The bull (part a) is black with white spots with two long brown horns that extend forwards. Where the legs should be, it's covered by a long multi-coloured fabric skirt. The skirt is composed of four strips of fabric, each with a different pattern - the top section is yellow with large pink flowers, then shiny gold, then red with blue flowers, and then purple shiny fabric. There are neon ribbons hanging from the horns, as well as a single strip around the top of the skirt. A long black tail of a triangle of black fabric and black hair extends down the back. Operated by inserting a hand inside the body of the puppet to control its head and movements. The puppet can be placed on a stand - stick (part b) and base (part c).