Potehi puppet theatre is a traditional Hokkien art form brought to Southeast Asia by immigrants from southern China several centuries ago. Despite originally being performed in Hokkien, potehi came to be performed in the different languages of the region, and is practised around Southeast Asia.
Ombak Potehi is Ombak-Ombak ARTStudio’s glove puppet theatre group established in 2015, consisting of young people – all under 30 – producing and performing puppet theatre, having been trained by experts from Penang’s Beng Geok Hong Puppet Troupe. Ombak-Ombak ARTStudio is a non-formal collective of artists and producers who work with traditional and contemporary art forms.
We speak with Professor Tan Sooi Beng, ethnomusicologist and artistic director of Ombak-Ombak ARTStudio, on what it’s like presenting potehi at the George Town Festival through the years, and what makes this centuries-old Hokkien art form timeless and important to preserve.