A swarm of catfish rises as one, a writhing mass that resembles a pit of snakes or the hump of a whale breaking the water’s surface. Within moments, every morsel is gone. Stillness resumes.
There is a great sense of calm inside Baan Silapin, a 200 year-old wooden house perched upon a canal that flows through Bangkok’s Yai District. Amidst a cluster of villages, life here unfolds at a pace far removed from the mega-malls and Skytrains of the city’s vast heart.
The resident artists disappear behind moulded black masks for the daily traditional puppet show, a sharing of local folklore and tales of Hanuman the monkey god. Like the catfish, their black shapes move as one, silently. There’s a grace and authenticity to the performance that holds the tiny audience completely spellbound.
In the late afternoon, a young boy is guided by two older artists as he practices the motions of this rare craft. He has a dedication to perfecting the fluid choreography, like a dancer, a fencer, a gymnast. Above us, a fan turns slowly, as if coming to rest.