Puppet or Marionette is one of the old domains for performance inherited for a long time and it is art and cultural heritage globally. In ASEAN, many countries perform this show. Myanmar is one of the countries that the marionette puppetry is unique and outstanding. It is the high grade of art which is the most important in Myanmar because this performance has to perform the dexterous technique of usage intricate wires that practice for a long time. This Burmese performance is called “YOKE THAY” that gets a lot of the popularities from numerous tourists.
Yoke Thay or traditional Burmese puppet is an ancient Burmese marionette that existed for 500 – 600 years ago. The puppet is carved wood as components, stringed the components together and then becoming puppet. The detail of each puppet is composed craftsmanship delicately concealed with the belief. The puppet is made from good wood, not fragile and curved. Before created, the marionette is soaked, for the wood that floats on surface of water, it is curved as female character and on the other hand, the wood is curved in male character if drowning. Sculptor will paint elaborately on puppet’s face and then inserting wire at its body, hands, and legs to move freely. For head part, the sculptor use real hair and other components provide the movement of the puppet freely with separating head, hands and legs from the body part that have to be proportioned according to physical. Costume is sewn with colorful clothes and the marionette creator also embroiders the little metal for sparkling costume. Each puppet has different wires for example, some puppets have 60 wires. If puppeteer wants to change the puppet character, he will start learning the wires of new puppets. It is the relation between the puppeteer and the marionette that are united in order to show perfectly.
In the Burmese king era, this show is called Ah-Myint-Tha-Bin meaning a high-class performance that is interesting and rare to see. This performance is not only the entertainment but it is also the art which earn the respect from every class. These marionettes are the instrument helping people to realize event nowadays. The performed title is related to Buddha story such as Jataka, legend regarding the spirit and ghost intervening the Buddhist doctrine about goodness and wickedness, the legend of pagoda, literature and folk tale. The Burmese puppeteer shows the performance in group. There are a number of different characters from 36 to over 100 characters.
The performance starts with the dance of animal puppets and Zawgyi, alchemist for preluding before beginning main title as the main characters. Each scene, puppeteers can perform 5-6 puppets at maximum per times at the same time. The marionette performance has music for each puppet with Burmese orchestra (hsaing-waing) and circle gongs through the story.
Yoke Thay is not only very popular art performance in Myanmar but it is also the various performance combined together that are sculpture, painting, embroidery, science and art in theater field that is harmonized properly. Besides Yoke Thay is the role in Nation Identity so the puppet model is produced as souvenirs for the tourists in Myanmar.