Kenyan puppetry/community education trainer and artistic director. Phylemon Odiambo Okoth has been central to the development of puppetry in social development in Kenya and other areas of Africa. He graduated from Kisumu Boys High School in 1989, received a Higher Diploma in Project Planning Management (Central Management/Job Institute, 2002) and a Certificate in County Governance (Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, 2013).

Eric Krystall, head of the Family Programmes Promotion Services (FPPS), invited Gary Friedman of African Research Education Puppetry (AREPP) to Kenya in 1993-1994 to help launch the use of puppets to fight HIV/AIDS. Phylemon Odhiambo Okoth, as a founding member, became involved with the Community Heath Awareness Puppeteers (CHAPS). This organization continues to use puppetry as a tool for education on health, social justice, civic education and other issues. CHAPS has a membership of 40 groups with about 400 puppeteers using puppets in participatory community education. Phylemon has continued to work with CHAPS, which in turn founded the Kenya International Puppetry (KIP) Festival, which was first held in 2002 and celebrates its fifth festival in 2014.

In 2004, Phylemon became the founding president of UNIMA-Kenya. In 2006, he launched the Kenya Institute of Puppet Theatre (KIPT), where he serves as Artistic Director. KIPT trains community puppeteers and seeks to increase levels of professionalism in Kenyan puppetry. With KIPT’s chief puppetry trainer Anthony Mboyo, Okoth has fostered the development of puppetry, through workshops and projects in Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. He, through CHAPS/KIPT/UNIMA, collaborated with UNILIVER East Africa and Mbuni/Buni Limited to develop puppets for promotion of products and political satire for television in The XYZ Show (see Godfrey Mwampembwa).

Some examples of Phylemon’s significant puppet productions include The Dustbin Street, The Bite, and The Last Man Standing. The last piece features the story of a wildebeest to focus on climate change and ecological awareness.

Phylemon Odhiambo Okoth has served as scriptwriter, director, and performer. He has consulted widely with NGOs and international organizations on the design of learning materials, facilitation of puppet/theatre workshops, and training in the use of puppetry and folk media for social change. He also serves as the secretary of Theatre for Young Audiences and Youth (ASSITEJ) Kenya.

(See Kenya.)