Eighty years ago, on 20th May 1929 a group of like minded people from Bulgaria, France, Yugoslavia, Germany, Austria, Romania and the Soviet Union came together in Prague to form an organisation dedicated to the art of the puppet.
UNIMA (Union Internationale de la Marionnette) in a short time built itself up from a small circle of friends into a world organisation. It is notable, from the point of view of cultural history, that UNIMA was the first international theatre body.
Over the past eighty years, UNIMA has had a rich and varied history, which took the organisation through Second World War, where many of its activities were taken underground in Europe, through the cold war into a completely new era. The strength of UNIMA was and will continue to be rooted in the fact that it was always able to rise above these problems.
During the eighties and nineties, there was an explosion of new Centres and members in all the continents beyond Europe, and these new Centres have resulted in new territorial groupings, for example the Asian, African and American Commissions, intended to facilitate communications and deal with new responsibilities. After forty years in Prague UNIMA changed its base for the first time: the General Secretariat moved to Warsaw, Poland, where it remained for eight years until 1980, when the headquarters were transferred to Charleville-Mézières, France. Charleville was already the site of a world festival and soon became the home not only of UNIMA but also of the Institute International de la Marionnette.
Since 1929, when UNIMA was founded, the world has changed and so has UNIMA itself. It is now a recognized and a respected world organisation. The spectrum of UNIMA activities has expanded to a great extent. The significance of this is associated with the far greater importance which attaches to puppetry now.
The puppet can nowadays be found in every genre of the contemporary performing arts including the mass media. In theatre, film, television, the world-wide web, celebration, ritual, education, and healing, like all art, a means of bringing peoples closer together and of fighting intolerance and violence.
UNIMA's long tradition does not stand in the way of its role as a dynamic force. It must, however, always remember the humanist ideals of universal friendship and understanding contained in the statement that introduces its constitution. UNIMA is responsible not only to its members but to all whose lives have been enriched by the spirit and beauty of the puppet. Viva UNIMA and viva the Power of the Puppet!
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