In a world where digital screens broadcast the show at will, a handful of Egyptian puppeteers still trigger laughter from spectators, especially children, by telling the ancestral exploits of the Aragoz.
Wooden head, conical hat, big black eyes and painted mustache, is it Aragoz, the little glove puppet from the depths of the ages that brightens up the little ones.
« Aragoz is not a toy or something that is made fun of. Aragoz lets the audience laugh so they can be happy, « said Sabry Metawly, veteran puppeteer.
For ten years, the Wamda troupe has organized free performances and workshops every week, which can rally up to 200 people, in Beit al-Sehimi an Ottoman mansion restored and transformed into a cultural center.
Although they make people laugh, the stories told by these puppeteers are also full of moral lessons.
« In addition, Aragoz represents the culture of joy and pleasure, which is what makes people laugh despite all the suffering they face in their lives, » said Nabil Bahgat, founder of the Wamda troupe.
Even if the rural festivals or the Muslim popular festivals sometimes still host amateur shows of Aragoz tradition, and more and more people in Egypt are interested in this type of show, only Wamda still practices the discipline assiduously and in the rules of art.
“Currently, many people are trying to enter this profession, especially after it has been recognized as a global art, Egyptian and Arabic, and also after the verification of its roots and its importance in relation to the subjects it tackles ”, explains Mahmoud Sayed, member of the Aragoz Wamda troupe.
But the founder of Wamda wants to see his troupe become a full-fledged company in the future.
In October, Egypt’s most famous puppeteer, Mostafa Othman, whose nickname was « Am Saber » (uncle Saber), died at the age of 80.