Aja

Dr Aja Marneweck


Next Gen Scholar/Senior Lecturer and Convenor of The Laboratory of Kinetic Objects (LoKO

Aja Marneweck is an NIHSS Specialist Artist in Residence Fellow in the Laboratory of Kinetic Objects (LoKO) at the Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape. Marneweck’s work engages the multimodal creative and discursive discipline of puppetry as an agent for transformative social, spiritual and cultural practices, as well as considering the unique lens it might offer radical contemporary creative practices in South Africa today. Marneweck holds the first South African doctorate in Practice as Research in Puppetry Performance entitled “Towards a Feminine Semiotic: Spiritual and Sexual Emergency in Women’s Puppetry and Visual Performance”.    

She has received multiple grants, residencies, and research awards, including a postdoctoral fellowship in Anthropology at the University of Cape Town (2016) and a postdoctoral fellowship in the CHR at UWC in 2018. Marneweck is the creative director of the women’s animism and puppetry company The Paper Body Collective. Since 2014 she has served as the creative director of the Annual Giant Puppet Parade, a large-scale interdisciplinary public puppet arts collaboration (created in 2010 in partnership between the CHR at UWC, Net vir Pret, and the Handspring Puppet Trust), which takes place annually in Barrydale in the Klein Karoo. This is a unique collaboration that allows rural and urban publics and artists to use puppetry to engage complex issues of history, heritage, land, creativity, identity, power, access, and ecology. 

Some of her most recent publications include 

“Mobilizing a New Universal: The Walking art of Giant Puppetry” in Manip, Le Journal de la Marionnette, forthcoming 2021.

“The Barrydale Giant Puppet Parade: Mobilizing Creative Ecologies in the Klein Karoo, South Africa”, in Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, James Thompson (ed), Taylor and Francis Routledge, 2019.

Related News


Charlotte Maxeke at the CHR: Boschendal puppetry workshops and exhibition

In September 2022, the CHR’s artists in residence Siphokazi Mpofu and Sipho Ngxola and LoKO convenor Aja Marneweck, ran a puppetry workshop based on stories of Charlotte Maxeke, with young scholars from the Pniel area, culminating in an exhibition held in Boschendal on 17th September.

Imaginary Futures Live Performance at the Global Peripheries Conference Paris

On the 23rd and 24th September, CHR’s Aja Marneweck will be collaborating in the Imaginary Futures project on live performances at the Global Periphery Contemporary Imaginaries of Space, Multiple Voices Hybrid Conference at the Leonardo/Olats Observatory of Arts and Techno-Sciences in Paris.

Puppet Walk and Performance at Boschendal’s Plum Harvest Festival

After the great success of the elephant puppet walk at the Boschendal Plum Harvest Festival in 2021, we will be celebrating this year’s festival with giant puppets to raise awareness of the living waters and aquatic life of our planet.  

In the Press: Buhle Ngaba on CHR Charlotte Maxeke Production

CHR Artist in Residence Buhle Ngaba is writing a screenplay for a groundbreaking puppetry production on the life of Charlotte Maxeke.

What A Wonderful World

The 2021 Barrydale Puppet Parade and Performance centres on a family living in Barrydale and the connection a young woman has with an ancient indigenous tree, Old Gwarrie, as well as with the wonderful world she calls home.

List of Articles (2016-present)

Staff and Fellows of the Centre for Humanities Research regularly publish articles and reviews in local and international journals, applying the centre’s intellectual inquiries across a wide range of disciplines and interests.

A Celebration of Puppetry at the Boschendal Plum Festival

Life-sized elephant puppet Mnumzane strolled across the Boschendal Estate on Sunday 14 March 2021, accompanied by little elephant Alfie, their path criss-crossed by the boisterous Dassie puppet.

Animations and Activations: A Workshop Toward Embodying Memory Through Puppets and Plants

On 9 March 2021, the CHR’s Jane Taylor and Aja Marneweck will be participating in the puppetry workshop Animations and Activations with William Ellis (Dept. of Anthropology, UWC) and Marcus Neustetter as part of the Tri-Continental Partnership between the University of Missouri, the University of the Western Cape, and Ghent University.

Imaginary Futures

The CHR’s Aja Marneweck, together with Nataniël Pokwas and Selanvor Platjies from Net vir Pret, the CHR’s partners in the annual Barrydale puppetry production will be performing on the Brighton Fringe festival as part of the Imaginary Futures International arts project.

Die Virus

The song was inspired by a request made to Selanvor (who is fast becoming one of Barrydale’s celebrated young artists) from residents of the village, to create an artistic response to the virus and the time we are in now.

The Barrydale Giant Puppet Parade: mobilising creative ecologies in the Klein Karoo, South Africa

A new publication by Aja Marneweck explores the multifaceted process of creating the large-scale annual public puppetry event, The Barrydale Giant Puppet Parade, in the rural town of Barrydale, South Africa.

The Final Spring (Barrydale 2019)

The Centre for Humanities Research and partners Net vir Pret present the ninth annual Barrydale Giant Puppet Parade and Performance.