New York – A likeness of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu arrived at New York’s JFK International Airport stuffed in a suitcase on Friday afternoon. The larger-than-life puppet of Tutu, manned by voice artist Aggrey Lonake, will represent local satirical show Puppet Nation ZA at the International Emmys on Monday.
Puppet Nation ZA, which stems from the creative team behind ZA News, is the only African production to be nominated for an International Emmy this year. When the nomination was announced executive producer Thierry Cassuto credited the team of several people, including writers, puppeteers, voice artists, camera people and video editors.
“Puppet Nation is a weekly satirical show that pokes fun at local and international politicians, celebrities and sports personalities using latex doppelgangers,” producer Tassyn Munro said.
Munro spoke about the show’s content from Dubai International Airport, in transit from Cape Town to New York for the Awards. The International Emmys are connected to the better-known Daytime Emmys which took place in May his year.
The upcoming event focuses on shows produced outside the United States. This year the majority of nominated shows are either British or Brazilian. Lone African nominee Puppet Nation ZA was shortlisted in the Comedy category for a second year running.
“It’s really wonderful,” voice artist Lonake said of the nomination. He spoke positively of the nod soon before departure from Cape Town on Thursday.
In reply to a question on the lack of African shows nominated this year Lonake said fellow African productions featured in 2015. He added a team of Kenyan artists visited the Both Worlds Studio in Bo Kaap, Cape Town where Puppet Nation ZA is filmed to share ideas on creating shows.
Arguably the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which runs the Emmys and South Africa’s own National Film and Video Foundation need to take action, incorporate and recognise the work of local television professionals.
Voice artist and actor Lonake said he would characterise up to 20 voices per show ranging from Tutu’s bright, high-pitched register to the meyhodical, stacatto and deep laugh of President Jacob Zuma.
“I wouldn’t say I have a favourite voice. All the voices I do mean so much to mean because they really make me do my work,” said Lonake. “There are those that are fun, they make me laugh. Like Nhlanhla Nene.” Lonake’s skills range from personifying the voices of Tutu, Nene and former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.
He brings some of the show’s tongue-in-cheek scriptwriting to life. The show gives a joking – and often stinging – analysis of current news, politics and sporting events. Puppet Nation ZA airs on pan-African television network StarSat once a week and lives online on the show’s website and YouTube channel.
See the latest episodes here. [http://www.zanews.co.za/category/puppet_nation_za]
Fans of the show and its creators are hopeful the only African nominee this year will walk away with a statue of its own.
*Note: This author is attending the International Emmys 2016 as a guest of StarSat and Puppet Nation ZA. You can follow her travels, and live updates on the Emmys @ermbates.