Friday, 2 September 2016


When early man first told stories around a fire in the darkness, accompanied by drumming and chanting with their elongated shadows dancing and flickering against the cave walls, they were immersed completely in the very earliest audio visual experience. 

At the Carrières de Luminières in Baux de Provence every year visitors have the same opportunity of total immersion. In the huge quarry at least 100 projectors screen artwork across the vast surfaces of stone and onto the floor to accompanying music. This year the images of Chagall were given the magic light treatment. 

To walk and be totally immersed within a Chagall painting, to have the colours cloak you and to step on the brushstrokes of light or stained glass lozenges of colour, make the dreamlike even more dreamlike and surreal.  His early life in Russia, war, love, enchantment float by –  you are on stage for the ballet of Daphnis and Chloë – you are under the dome, sitting in the red seats of the Paris Garnier Opera House – you are at the circus – while in the background the violins of old Russia and Ravels' music for the ballet bathe the space in sound.   

Storytelling at this total immersion level might be beyond the capabilities of most writers. But I've been playing with paper and glue and scissors trying to introduce some far more mundane light magic as the summer trails to an end and the new term begins.  
Hot Air Balloon designed & made by an 11 year old for ZERAFFA GIRAFFA's journey.
A few tricks for anyone contemplating shadow puppets.

1. Some children will never have come across shadow puppets so demonstrate shadow first in a tangible way with a bright lamp and a shadow on the wall.

2. Look for interesting images online or in books to inspire shapes or ideas. The storyline should be fairly simple. Older children (9 -11 year olds) manage cutting and planning shadow puppets better than 5 or 6 year olds.

3. Have helpers in the classroom. Pointy scissors or cutting scalpels are needed for cutting holes.

4. White pencils show up better when drawing outlines on black card and Pritt glue sticks work well

5. Glue and cello-tape don’t show up in the shadow projection. So feel free to be messy and to patch.

An 11 year old making the Palace of Saint Cloud from ZERAFFA GIRAFFA 
 6. Cellophane paper is tricky to find. Store up some at Christmas when the shops are full of green and red. Some old style stationers sell limited colours throughout the year but you can overlap paper to get new colours e.g. purple from red and blue – a bit of magic in itself. Synthetic cellophane is half the price of real cellophane and just as transparent.

7. To see the affects of the cellophane, it helps to have pupils work against white paper. Keeps glue off the desks as well.

8. Split pins work if you want moving parts. There are other ways of doing moving parts but I gave up.
 See action video of the hunter at the end of blog. The lasso is twisted gardening ties.
9. Iron your sheet so that it doesn’t have any folds like mine!

Projected image of the Palace made by an 11 yr old who stands behind the sheet with light falling from behind. . 
10. Simple things often give magical results. Play and let the light makes its own magic. And don't worry if arms or hands show.
Water created with strips of cloth, cellophane and net fabric taped to 2 dowel sticks 
The projected result of above. Dense fabrics show black. Netting makes froth if gathered together. 

Waving the sticks a little makes the water move
11. Like in the stories told by early man, background music and dialogue help add atmosphere. The silence in both this video and the one below is deafening.

12. Things will go wrong but don't fuss. Have fun. This is not the Carrières de Luminières. We are writers telling our stories in a way that started long, long ago. And if all fails call in a professional shadow puppeteer!!!


twitter: @dihofmeyr 


Susan Price said...

What a brilliant idea! And what beautiful work.

Richard said...

That is some beautiful work there. The kids must have a real sense of achievement.

It reminds me of some stuff Pomplamoose have done. Look up their "Pharrell Mashup (Happy Get Lucky)" and "Lorde 2Pac Beck Mashup" on Youtube.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

These guys are absolutely brilliant! They leave you exhausted with their energy and digital antics! Thanks Richard and thanks Sue for your comment. Not to be attempted in a one hour school session!

Sue Purkiss said...

Just lovely - you are clever! Very envious of the Chagall light show - I went to see a Chagall exhibition last year and absolutely loved it. Being immersed in those incredible colours - heaven!

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

No not clever... a bit foolish maybe. I think its best with a small group.
But I was spurred on by the vision of a fellow writer, Joan Rankin, who once more than 20 years ago did a complete story over the top of an overhead projector light box with feathers and cellophane and cut outs. It was pure magic and I was transported.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

P.S. Jane Ray the wonderful illustrator of 'ZERAFFA GIRAFFA' has just told me, cellophane is very easy to come by at Baker Ross. There's a huge range of rolls as well as packs of smaller pieces in all colours. Silly me! Just Google them!

Penny Dolan said...

(Tried to comment a couple of days ago but I was anonymous, ie away from my usual e-address so Blogger got into a grump.)

Thanks for sharing both the experience and the workshop-plus-tips, Dianne. I could feel my fingers getting very itchy over all those lovely colours, shapes and examples.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Yes Penny... its a bit beguiling but also time wasting because the more you play the more you want to play!