Driven by passion: Goh and her mother Toh showing how it is done during the Teowchew Tide talk at the George Town World Heritage Incorporated office in Lebuh Acheh, Penang.
SOME 20 participants who attended the ‘Teochew Tide’ talk at the George Town World Heritage Incorporated office was left wanting more after a puppet show demonstration.
The demonstration, which was conducted by Chinese puppeteer Goh Hooi Ling, 32, and her mother Toh Ai Hwa, 62, was carried out using Teochew stilted puppets.
With steady hands, the women carefully moved the puppets’ wooden arms while accompanied by a melodious Chinese tune sung live by Goh.
“It is very important to sing and perform properly, as this is a form of respect to oneself and one’s culture,” said the younger woman from Sungai Dua in Butterworth.
A trained puppeteer since she was eight, Goh now runs the Kim Giak Low Choon Teo Chew Puppet Show Enterprise, a family business formed in 1989.
“My mother is the disciple of a puppet master. I left school when I was in Form Two to help my parents run the family business.
“Although my family is Hokkien, performing the shows in Teochew seems to be in our blood,” she said.
She added that she also comes from a family of Chinese opera performers which started from her great grandparents.
Goh, who learned the art from her mother, noted that while puppet shows were the trend at birthdays, weddings and funerals during her mother’s time, most people now usually engaged their services during the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar, which is when the Hungry Ghost Festival starts.
“Occasionally, we also performed in Taoist temples on the birthdays of Chinese deities.
“There are currently about four puppet troupes in the state. It is a dying art as not many people are committed to learning it,” she said.
She added that she was happy to have taught the art to her nieces Goh Sin Jie, 11, and Goh
Sin Ee, 12, who showed interest since they were little.
Goh has also set up her own Teochew Opera Troupe known as the Kim Giak Low Choon Teo Chew Opera in 2009 but had to disband the troupe this year due to financial constraint.
She said: “I hope to open classes to teach people the art of puppetry some day.
“Although there are many out there who are willing to learn, some might think twice about going out there to perform shows as this requires a lot of time, commitment, love and passion to do so.”