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 'Tapagé de Cachoeira' character. Head and hands are carved from wood and painted. He has dark brown skin, slanted oval black eyes, small rounded eyebrows, a large nose, large black moustache, and a closed mouth. His fabric body / tunic is light green. The sleeves are a red fabric with large blue flowers, and small white and green flowers, and the skirt is dark blue with red flowers and green or blue leaves. The fabric is adhered(?) to the hands and head, and wrapped with shiny dark green ribbon at the wrists and neck. He holds a small string instrument in his right hand, which has a pink-red strap that extends over his left shoulder. Operated by inserting a hand inside the body of the puppet to control its head and movements.