Dr Aja Marneweck


Current Fellows: Postdoctoral

Dr Aja Marneweck is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Laboratory of Kinetic Objects, in the Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape. She is a puppeteer, ritualist and academic researcher. Her current research considers the intersections of animism, practice as research in performance, postcolonial feminist theory, South African puppetry, medical anthropology and the lens they offer radical contemporary performance practices within large and small-scale communities. Her most recent publication is ‘Sexual and Spiritual R-Evolution through Animism: The Feminine Semiotics of Puppetry’ in the International Journal of Resistance Studies. Marneweck established the international women’s puppetry company, The Paper Body Collective in 2004 in Cape Town. After obtaining an honours degree in video dance and theatre directing in Johannesburg in the ‘90s, Marneweck began her puppetry career with Gary Friedman in Cape Town in 2001, collaborating on the site-specific puppetry production, Looking For a Monster. In 2005 and 2006 she received bursaries to attend puppetry training at the International School of Marionette art in Charleville Meziere, with international artists Green Ginger and Au Cu Du Loop. Aja was a founding co-director of the groundbreaking Out the Box International Festival of Puppetry and Visual Performance from 2005-2009. She has created several multimedia puppetry productions, performing on prestigious festivals such as the Festival Mondial des Theatres de la Marionettes in Charleville (2009) and the Puppet Theatre Festival at the Stadt Museum in Munich (2013). Marneweck has also created the original puppetry for award-winning international Theatre Companies including Theatre of Witness at the Playhouse in Derry, Northern Ireland (productions ‘Release’ in 2012, and ‘Sanctuary’ in 2013) and Opera Company Isango Portobello on several productions (‘The Mysteries’ played at the Garrick Theatre on the West End in London 2009). She directs the UWC Centre for Humanities Research, Handspring Puppet Trust and Net vir Pret giant puppetry event in Barrydale in the Klein Karoo. In 2012 she was awarded the first PhD in practice as research in puppetry in South Africa for her site-specific live art performance Plot 99 about the life of the Xhosa Prophetess Nonthetha Nkwenkwe. Aja’s international performance research has been described as a ‘powerful utility of a Feminist Semiotic for an innovative women’s theatrical aesthetics in practices that could become a cross-cultural and international phenomenon’ (Baz Kershaw, 2012).