In the campaign to educate people about COVID-19, a man in Kenya can be found literally pulling the strings. Puppeteer Michael Mutahi uses his craft to entertain and teach children about the dangers of the virus and is gaining many followers.
Using her two decades of puppetry skills to educate children about COVID-19, Mutahi records her puppet shows in front of small audiences and shares the video online.
“It’s washing your hands, keep your distance – everyone was actually saying the same thing. But I look at myself and wonder – I’m a writer, I’m a puppeteer, I can edit, I can do all of these things so I think I can come up with something more creative because the guys are so bored at home. and they need information and also need to be entertained, ” said Mutahi, who is 41.
Kenya has nearly 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 1,700 deaths.
Mutahi’s grandmother and grandfather puppets – known as Kuhu and Babu in Swahili – teach coronavirus prevention to her growing audience.
Nairobi resident Steve Maina watched a recent recording of the show.
“For children it is better, because children would like more fun. It would grab their attention when they watch puppets. It attracts the attention of young people,” Maina said.
Mutahi is one of the 100 Professional Puppeteers in Kenya.
Kenya Puppet Theater Institute (KIPT) director Phylemon Okoth says they do more than just entertain.
“We have also been successful in playing a role in raising awareness in the community about COVID-19 and we have several clips not only from KIPT but also from partner organizations that we have formed that actually coordinate most of their work and also individuals, ”Okoth said.
Kenyan authorities support the use of puppets for COVID-19 education.
Ezekiel Mutua, managing director of Kenya’s Film Classification Board, says the trend is gaining popularity.
“So we bring them art. More importantly, because of COVID-19, right now the idea of having a closed-door theater is not very popular because you are limited due to social distancing. So this cinema, mobile cinema units will become very popular, ”Mutua said.
For Mutahi, the amalgamation of COVID prevention education and puppetry means his art will reach an even wider audience in Kenya as well.