Nigerian farmer and puppetry artist. Djibir Djouli, magician, illusionist and healer of body and spirit, follows in his family tradition. His father Djouli was a well-known puppeteer, considered to be an innovator in the art of Hausa puppetry. Djibir did not have a natural affinity for puppetry and his strong personality revolted, but his father forced the family tradition on him with harsh training. Djibir learned the craft on the job, accompanying his father on tours. At first he was a musician; he then became assistant and interpreter for the swazzle (French: pratique) voiced puppets; and he finally became a full-time puppeteer at the age of thirty and continued his father’s repertoire.

Djibir Djouli first became renowned among the elite of the region. His fame very quickly spread through the entire country and even beyond the boundaries of Niger. An itinerant artist, he travelled in a cart with his family and toured to more than four hundred villages even as far away as Nigeria. Djouli has renewed and enriched his repertoire working with his two sons, Maazou, the elder as his puppet interpreter, and Abdoulsalam, who accompanies him on percussion. As a Hausa-speaking Muslim, Djouli nevertheless continues to be influenced by ancestral animism and his characters are very rooted in tradition.  

Djouli uses glove puppets or simple wooden sculpted figures that speak with a swazzle. The shows can last between two to eight hours and quick stories or short scenes of social satire or humour dominate. His most famous short plays are caricatures of the skirt-chasing village chief, the loose girl or prostitute, the slippery marabout (priest, sorcerer, medium, healer), the dishonest shopkeeper, the ever-angry colonizer. The repertoire also depicts scenes of ethnic rivalry in the same village, with dances performed by two young girl rivals and cousins, and also portrays the juxtaposition of certain professions (farmer and blacksmith, butcher and shepherd). His troupe is made up of at least five artists (one puppeteer-magician, one puppet interpreter, an assistant and two percussionists). Around thirty puppets are generally used during each performance and five or six magic acts accompany each show.

Today Djibir Djouli’s art is recognized all over the world, and his troupe is regularly invited to France and Spain.

(See Niger.)