This backdrop was made in 1960 by the Greek puppeteer and popular artist Abraam (Antonakos) in his Athens workshop, and used in performances in Greece during the 1960s. This and most of the puppets and accessories in the collection were brought to Australia by Abraam Antonakas for his performances at the Astor Theatre in Melbourne in 1977. He then left the collection with Dimitri Katsoulis who used them in all his subsequent performances in Victoria and in South Australia from 1978 to 1991. Dimitri Katsoulis migrated to Australia in 1974 to escape a regime that repressed Greek artists. He had trained in Greece with theatre and film companies as an actor and technician. A master of the traditional Greek shadow puppet theatre, his performances explored contemporary issues such as the isolation of migrant women and children. Unable to obtain funding and support, he returned to Greece in 1991, leaving his entire collection to the people of Victoria. It includes 32 shadow puppets and around 170 props, set backdrops and technical tools and stage equipment. Dimitri has since returned to Melbourne and assists the Museum to continue to document this rich art form within both local and international contexts.

This backdrop of a mansion was used in the centuries-old Traditional Greek Shadow Puppet Theatre performances. It was the residence of Veziris or the Pasha, depending on the particular play. The Vizier (the Veziris), is originally a Persian term for a high-ranking political (and sometimes religious) advisor or minister, often to a Muslim monarch such as a Sultan. The mansion was placed on the right side of the stage and was used in performances as the home of old man Stavridis or as the home of the Pasha [a high ranking state political advisor]. The backdrop could be used as a family home and sometimes it is used as a government building where the Pasha resides.

Information supplied by Greek Shadow Puppet Theatre master Dimitri Katsoulis, 2007.

Physical Description

A sheet of synthetic polymer carrying a design of a large house with minarets, decorated walls and crescent symbols. Coloured in red, green, yellow, brown, blue and white. Two flights of steps are in the foreground. The design covers almost the entire sheet.


This collection of puppets, props, stage sets, and technical tools and equipment relating to traditional Greek Shadow Puppet Theatre is unique in Australia and rare in international public collections. The history of Greek Shadow Puppet Theatre, its puppet characters and the methodology of its performance has been recorded in partnership with the puppet master to whom the collection belonged. The collection is highly significant both as documentation of an important cross-cultural, centuries-old art form, and as an example of the transnational migration of cultural activity between Greece and Australia. It is a collection which was created and performed in Greece and Australia from the mid to late twentieth century, by two puppet masters, who transported the tradition between two countries. Abraam Antonakos came to Australia in 1977 to perform the puppet theatre and then deposited the puppets with Dimitri Katsoulis, who had migrated to Australia in 1974. Dimitri's story becomes one of migration experience, cultural maintenance and adaptation, and finally return migration and the discontinuance of this cultural art form in Australia.

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