See Metropolis’ Scandalous Dance Scene Colorized, Enhanced, and Newly Soundtracked

It did­n’t take long after the inven­tion of cin­e­ma for its sheer pow­er of spec­ta­cle to become clear. Arguably, it was appar­ent even in the pio­neer­ing work of the Lumière broth­ers, though they attempt­ed only to cap­ture images famil­iar from every­day life at the time. But in a decade or two emerged auteurs like Fritz Lang, who, hav­ing grown up with cin­e­ma itself, pos­sessed high­ly devel­oped instincts for how to use it to cap­ti­vate large and var­i­ous audi­ences. Released in 1927, Lang’s Metrop­o­lis showed movie­go­ers an elab­o­rate vision, both fear­some and allur­ing, of the indus­tri­al dystopia that could lay ahead. But it also had danc­ing girls!

Or rather, it had a danc­ing girl who’s actu­al­ly a robot — a Maschi­nen­men­sch, accord­ing to the script — built by the film’s vil­lain in an attempt to besmirch the hero­ine who would lib­er­ate the tit­u­lar city’s down­trod­den work­ers. (Both the real woman and her mechan­i­cal imper­son­ator are skill­ful­ly played by Brigitte Helm.)

In the video above, you can see the scan­dalous and cin­e­mat­i­cal­ly inno­v­a­tive spec­ta­cle-with­in-a-spec­ta­cle that is Metrop­o­lis’ dance scene col­orized, upscaled to 4K res­o­lu­tion at 60 frames per sec­ond, and new­ly sound­tracked with a track called “Lemme See About It” by Max McFer­ren. This is rec­og­niz­ably Metrop­o­lis, but it’s also a Metrop­o­lis none of us has ever seen before.

The pro­duc­tion also com­bines visu­al mate­r­i­al from dif­fer­ent ver­sions of the film, quite a few of which have been edit­ed and re-edit­ed, lost and recov­ered over near­ly the past cen­tu­ry. (The run­ning times of the offi­cial­ly released cuts alone range from 83 to 153 min­utes.) Cer­tain dif­fer­ences in qual­i­ty between one shot and the next make this obvi­ous, though the con­sis­ten­cy of the over­all col­oriza­tion eas­es the sud­den tran­si­tions between them. A Metrop­o­lis fan could­n’t help but feel some curios­i­ty about how the whole pic­ture would play with all of these enhance­ments, not that it would resem­ble any­thing Lang could orig­i­nal­ly have envi­sioned. But then, no sin­gle cut exists that defin­i­tive­ly reflects his inten­tions — and besides, he’d sure­ly approve of how the film’s dance sequence has been made to cap­ti­vate us once again.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Metrop­o­lis: Watch Fritz Lang’s 1927 Mas­ter­piece

Watch Metrop­o­lis’ Cin­e­mat­i­cal­ly Inno­v­a­tive Dance Scene, Restored as Fritz Lang Intend­ed It to Be Seen (1927)

If Fritz Lang’s Icon­ic Film Metrop­o­lis Had a Kraftwerk Sound­track

One of the Great­est Dances Sequences Ever Cap­tured on Film Gets Restored in Col­or by AI: Watch the Clas­sic Scene from Stormy Weath­er

The Icon­ic Dance Scene from Hel­lza­pop­pin’ Pre­sent­ed in Liv­ing Col­or with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence (1941)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

What Sex Was Like in Medieval Times?: Historians Look at How People Got It On in the Dark Ages

The adjec­tive medieval tends to con­jure up vivid and some­times off-putting images, not least when applied to sex. But how many of us have any sense at all of what the real peo­ple of the Mid­dle Ages got up to in bed? To get one, we could do worse than ask­ing his­to­ri­an Eleanor Jane­ga, teacher of the course Medieval Gen­der and Sex­u­al­i­ty and host of the His­to­ry Hit video above, “What Was Sex Real­ly Like For Medieval Peo­ple?” In it, Jane­ga has first to make clear that, yes, medieval Euro­peans had sex; if they had­n’t, of course, many of us would­n’t be here today. But we’d be for­giv­en for assum­ing that the seem­ing­ly absolute dom­i­nance of the Church quashed any and all of their erot­ic oppor­tu­ni­ties.

Accord­ing to the medieval Church, Jane­ga says, “the only time sex is accept­able is between two mar­ried peo­ple for pro­cre­ative pur­pos­es.” Its many oth­er restric­tions includ­ed “no sex on Sat­ur­days and Sun­days in case you’re too turned on dur­ing mass; only have sex in the mis­sion­ary posi­tion, because any­thing else sub­verts the nat­ur­al rela­tion­ship between men and women; don’t get ful­ly naked dur­ing sex, because it’s just too excit­ing; in short, dur­ing sex, you should be try­ing to have the least amount of fun pos­si­ble.” Strict and unam­bigu­ous though these rules were, “nobody real­ly lis­tened to them” — and what’s more, giv­en the lack of pri­vate spaces, “sex was almost a pub­lic affair in the Mid­dle Ages.”

So says Kate Lis­ter, who research­es the his­to­ry of sex­u­al­i­ty, and who turns up to bring her own knowl­edge of the sub­ject to the par­ty. “We tend to think about medieval peo­ple as being real prudes,” says Jane­ga, but even scant his­tor­i­cal records — and rather more copi­ous erot­ic man­u­script mar­gin­a­lia — show that “they were inter­est­ed in all kinds of sex and romance that we would find com­plete­ly unac­cept­able.” Lis­ter adds that, “in many ways, we’re not open like the medieval peo­ple were. We don’t have pub­lic com­mu­nal bathing. We don’t have sex in the same room as oth­er peo­ple. We don’t go to a high-brow din­ner par­ty and tell pubic-hair jokes.” Or we don’t, at least, if we haven’t devot­ed our careers to the sex­u­al­i­ty of the Mid­dle Ages, a field of his­to­ry clear­ly unfit for prudes.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Ear­li­est Known Appear­ance of the F‑Word, in a Bizarre Court Record Entry from 1310

Peo­ple in the Mid­dle Ages Slept Not Once But Twice Each Night: How This Lost Prac­tice Was Redis­cov­ered

What Did Peo­ple Eat in Medieval Times? A Video Series and New Cook­book Explain

Why Butt Trum­pets & Oth­er Bizarre Images Appeared in Illu­mi­nat­ed Medieval Man­u­scripts

Medieval Monks Com­plained About Con­stant Dis­trac­tions: Learn How They Worked to Over­come Them

The Turin Erot­ic Papyrus: The Old­est Known Depic­tion of Human Sex­u­al­i­ty (Cir­ca 1150 B.C.E.)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Hear Moby Dick Read in Its Entirety by Tilda Swinton, Stephen Fry, John Waters & Many Others

Moby-Dick is the great Amer­i­can nov­el. But it is also the great unread Amer­i­can nov­el. Sprawl­ing, mag­nif­i­cent, deliri­ous­ly digres­sive, it stands over and above all oth­er works of fic­tion, since it is bare­ly a work of fic­tion itself. Rather, it is an explo­sive expo­si­tion of one man’s inves­ti­ga­tion into the world of the whale, and the way humans have relat­ed to it. Yet it is so much more than that.”

That’s how Ply­mouth Uni­ver­si­ty intro­duces Her­man Melville’s clas­sic tale from 1851. And it’s what set the stage for their web project launched back in 2012. Called The Moby-Dick Big Read, the project fea­tured celebri­ties and less­er known fig­ures read­ing all 135 chap­ters from Moby-Dick — chap­ters that you can start down­load­ing (as free audio files) on iTunesSound­cloud, RSS Feed, or the Big Read web site itself.

The project start­ed with the first chap­ters being read by Til­da Swin­ton (Chap­ter 1), Cap­tain R.N. Hone (Chap­ter 2), Nigel Williams (Chap­ter 3), Caleb Crain (Chap­ter 4), Musa Okwon­ga (Chap­ter 5), and Mary Nor­ris (Chap­ter 6). John WatersStephen Fry, Simon Cal­low, Mary Oliv­er and even Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron read lat­er ones.

If you want to read the nov­el as you go along, find the text over at Project Guten­berg.

Til­da Swin­ton’s nar­ra­tion of Chap­ter 1 appears right below:

An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2012.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

An Illus­tra­tion of Every Page of Her­man Melville’s Moby Dick

How Ray Brad­bury Wrote the Script for John Huston’s Moby Dick (1956)

Hear a Com­plete 24-Hour Read­ing of Moby-Dick, Record­ed at the South­bank Cen­tre in Lon­don (2015)

Discover Nüshu, a 19th-Century Chinese Writing System That Only Women Knew How to Write

Lit­er­a­cy in Chi­nese may now be wide­ly attained, but it isn’t eas­i­ly attained. Just a cen­tu­ry ago it was­n’t wide­ly attained either, at least not by half of the Chi­nese speak­ers alive. As a rule, women once weren’t taught the thou­sands of logo­graph­ic char­ac­ters nec­es­sary to read and write in the lan­guage. But in one par­tic­u­lar sec­tion of the land, Jiangy­ong Coun­ty in Hunan province, some did mas­ter the 600 to 700 char­ac­ters of a pho­net­ic script made to reflect the local dialect and now called Nüshu (女书), or “wom­en’s writ­ing.”

In its hey­day, Nüshu’s users had a vari­ety of names for it, “includ­ing ‘mos­qui­to writ­ing,’ because it is a lit­tle slant­ed and with long ‘legs,’ ” writes Ilar­ia Maria Sala in a Quartz piece on the scrip­t’s his­to­ry. Its great­est con­cen­tra­tion of prac­ti­tion­ers lived in “the vil­lage of Shangjiangxu, where young girls exchanged small tokens of friend­ly affec­tion, such as fans dec­o­rat­ed with cal­lig­ra­phy or hand­ker­chiefs embroi­dered with a few aus­pi­cious words.”

Oth­er, more for­mal occa­sions for the use of Nüshu, includ­ed when girls decid­ed to “make a full-fledged pact of close­ness with one anoth­er that they were ‘best friends’ — jiebai zimei or ‘sworn sis­ters’ — a rela­tion­ship that was rec­og­nized as valu­able and even nec­es­sary for them in the local social sys­tem. Such a once-obscure chap­ter of Chi­nese his­to­ry has proven irre­sistible to read­ers from a vari­ety of cul­tures in recent decades.

“Most inter­pre­ta­tions and head­lines have been about a ‘secret lan­guage’ that women used, prefer­ably to com­mu­ni­cate their pain,” writes Sala, which struck her as evi­dence of peo­ple tak­ing the sto­ry of Nüshu and “read­ing into it what they want­ed, regard­less of what it meant.” Yet such an inter­pre­ta­tion has sure­ly done its part to spread inter­est in the near-extinc­t’s scrip­t’s revival, described by’s Andrew Loft­house as orig­i­nat­ing in “the tiny vil­lage of Puwei, which is sur­round­ed by the Xiao riv­er and only acces­si­ble via a small sus­pen­sion bridge.” After three Nüshu writ­ers were dis­cov­ered there in the eight­ies, “it became the focal point for Nüshu research. In 2006, the script was list­ed as a Nation­al Intan­gi­ble Cul­tur­al Her­itage by the State Coun­cil of Chi­na, and a year lat­er, a muse­um was built on Puwei Island.”

There train­ing is pro­vid­ed to the few select “inter­preters or ‘inher­i­tors’ of the lan­guage, learn­ing to read, write, sing and embroi­der Nüshu.” Iron­i­cal­ly, Loft­house adds, “much of what we know about Nüshu is due to the work of male researcher Zhou Shuoyi” who hap­pened to hear of it in the nine­teen-fifties and was lat­er per­se­cut­ed dur­ing Mao Zedong’s Cul­tur­al Rev­o­lu­tion — a treat­ment that includ­ed 21 years in a labor camp — for hav­ing researched such an arti­fact of the feu­dal past. Once a use­ful tool for express­ing emo­tions and per­form­ing social rit­u­als social­iza­tion, Nüshu had become polit­i­cal­ly dan­ger­ous. What it becomes now, half a cen­tu­ry lat­er and with its renew­al only just begin­ning, is up to its new learn­ers.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Free Chi­nese Lessons

The Improb­a­ble Inven­tion of Chi­nese Type­writ­ers & Com­put­er Key­boards: Three Videos Tell the Tech­no-Cul­tur­al Sto­ry

The World’s Old­est Mul­ti­col­or Book, a 1633 Chi­nese Cal­lig­ra­phy & Paint­ing Man­u­al, Now Dig­i­tized and Put Online

How Writ­ing Has Spread Across the World, from 3000 BC to This Year: An Ani­mat­ed Map

How to Write in Cuneiform, the Old­est Writ­ing Sys­tem in the World: A Short, Charm­ing Intro­duc­tion

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

There Are Eight Forms of Intelligence, Not Just One: Which Apply to You?

Intel­li­gence is a fraught sub­ject of dis­cus­sion, and only becom­ing more so. Among the frame­works devel­oped safe­ly to approach it, one has gained spe­cial promi­nence: the the­o­ry cham­pi­oned by devel­op­men­tal psy­chol­o­gist Howard Gard­ner, author of the book Frames of Mind: The The­o­ry of Mul­ti­ple Intel­li­gences. And how many such intel­li­gences are there? In the Big Think video above — post­ed in 2016, 33 years after Frames of Mind — he names ten: lan­guage, log­ic and math­e­mat­ics, musi­cal, spa­tial, bod­i­ly-kines­thet­ic, inter­per­son­al, intrap­er­son­al, nat­u­ral­ist, teach­ing, and exis­ten­tial. 

Some of these may strike you as only tan­gen­tial­ly relat­ed to intel­li­gence, tra­di­tion­al­ly defined. Gard­ner has con­sid­ered this: “Peo­ple say, ‘Well, music’s a tal­ent, it’s not an intel­li­gence.’ And I say, ‘Well, why, if you’re good with words, is that an intel­li­gence, but if you’re good with tones and rhythms and tim­bres…”

Nobody, in his telling, has ever come up with a con­vinc­ing response. Hence his mis­sion to expand the def­i­n­i­tion of intel­li­gence beyond the aggre­gate mea­sure of brain­pow­er long known as the gen­er­al intel­li­gence fac­tor — or more com­mon­ly, “g fac­tor” — to encom­pass the sort of skills whose use­ful­ness we can see in the real world, away from the con­struct­ed rig­ors of psy­cho­me­t­ric tests.

“Whether there’s eight intel­li­gences or ten or twelve is less impor­tant to me than hav­ing bro­ken the monop­oly of a sin­gle intel­li­gence, which sort of labels you for all time,” says Gard­ner. You can see eight of his intel­li­gences bro­ken down in more detail — and per­haps even iden­ti­fy your own strongest suit — in the Prac­ti­cal Psy­chol­o­gy video just above. Gard­ner also express­es opti­mism about our abil­i­ty to devel­op dif­fer­ent intel­li­gences: you can choose to con­cen­trate on a spe­cif­ic one, but “if you want to be a jack of all trades and be very well-round­ed, then you’re prob­a­bly going to want to nur­ture the intel­li­gences which aren’t that strong.” What­ev­er your own view on mul­ti­ple intel­li­gences, don’t for­get how the old say­ing orig­i­nal­ly went in full: “Jack of all trades, mas­ter of none, though often bet­ter than a mas­ter of one.”

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Secret to High Per­for­mance and Ful­fil­ment: Psy­chol­o­gist Daniel Gole­man Explains the Pow­er of Focus

How Read­ing Increas­es Your Emo­tion­al Intel­li­gence & Brain Func­tion: The Find­ings of Recent Sci­en­tif­ic Stud­ies

Why You Do Your Best Think­ing In The Show­er: Cre­ativ­i­ty & the “Incu­ba­tion Peri­od”

You Don’t “Find” Your Pas­sion in Life, You Active­ly Devel­op It, Explains Psy­chol­o­gist Car­ol Dweck, The­o­rist of the “Growth Mind­set”

Why Incom­pe­tent Peo­ple Think They’re Amaz­ing: An Ani­mat­ed Les­son from David Dun­ning (of the Famous “Dun­ning-Kruger Effect”)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The Breaking Bad-O-Verse — Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #135 Considers “Better Call Saul”


Giv­en the end of Bet­ter Call Saul, your Pret­ty Much Pop host Mark Lin­sen­may­er, plus NY Times enter­tain­ment writer/philosophy pro­fes­sor Lawrence Ware, novelist/writing pro­fes­sor Sarahlyn Bruck, and philosopher/musician Al Bak­er dis­cuss this strange TV “fran­chise” that amaz­ing­ly pro­duced a pre­quel that was arguably bet­ter than the orig­i­nal. We cov­er the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion and pac­ing, nov­el­is­tic TV vs. not hav­ing a plot roadmap in advance, and whether we want to see anoth­er install­ment in this world.

A few arti­cles we con­sult­ed includ­ed:

Fol­low us @law_writes, @sarahlynbruck, @ixisnox, @MarkLinsenmayer.

Hear more Pret­ty Much Pop. Sup­port the show and hear bonus talk­ing for this and near­ly every oth­er episode at or by choos­ing a paid sub­scrip­tion through Apple Pod­casts. This pod­cast is part of the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life pod­cast net­work.

Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast is the first pod­cast curat­ed by Open Cul­ture. Browse all Pret­ty Much Pop posts.


The Internet Archive Launches Democracy’s Library, a Free Online Library of 500,000 Documents Supporting Democracy

“Democ­ra­cy is the worst form of gov­ern­ment except all those oth­er forms that have been tried from time to time.” So said Win­ston Churchill, per­haps not sus­pect­ing how fre­quent­ly the remark would be quot­ed in the decades there­after. Time and expe­ri­ence con­tin­ue to reveal to us democ­ra­cy’s lia­bil­i­ties, but also — at least in cer­tain soci­eties — the nature of its sur­pris­ing stay­ing pow­er. Since well before Churchill’s time, democ­ra­cy and its work­ings have been objects of fas­ci­na­tion the world over. So have its cen­tral ques­tions, not least the one of just how to main­tain the “informed cit­i­zen­ry” on which its oper­a­tion sup­pos­ed­ly depends.

The Inter­net Archive has just launched its own kind of answer in the form of Democ­ra­cy’s Library. “A free, open, online com­pendi­um of gov­ern­ment research and pub­li­ca­tions from around the world,” the site offers cit­i­zens a way to “lever­age use­ful research, learn about the work­ings of their gov­ern­ment, hold offi­cials account­able, and be more informed vot­ers.”

Col­lect­ed from a vari­ety of gov­ern­men­tal bod­ies like the Unit­ed States’ Nation­al Agri­cul­tur­al LibraryFor­eign Broad­cast Infor­ma­tion Ser­vice, and Nation­al Insti­tute of Stan­dards and Tech­nol­o­gy Research Library — as well as Sta­tis­tics Cana­da and Pub­lic Accounts of Cana­da — its mate­ri­als were osten­si­bly pro­duced for the pub­lic, but haven’t always been easy to find. It total, there are more than 500,000 doc­u­ments in the col­lec­tion.

“Gov­ern­ments have cre­at­ed an abun­dance of infor­ma­tion and put it in the pub­lic domain, but it turns out the pub­lic can’t eas­i­ly access it,” says Brew­ster Kahle, founder of the Inter­net Archive. He gives one of the series of talks that com­prise “Build­ing Democ­ra­cy’s Library,” the launch cel­e­bra­tion that took place last week and that you can still watch in the video above. Its pro­ceed­ings go into quite a bit of detail about the efforts of acqui­si­tion and orga­ni­za­tion that went into this project, as well as the nature of its mis­sion. For this isn’t just an effort to doc­u­ment democ­ra­cy, but to strength­en it by mak­ing the infor­ma­tion it pro­duces avail­able as con­ve­nient­ly as pos­si­ble to as many cit­i­zens as pos­si­ble. And no mat­ter the coun­try of which you count your­self a cit­i­zen, you can start brows­ing Democ­ra­cy’s Library here.

Relat­ed con­tent:

His­to­ri­an Tim­o­thy Sny­der Presents 20 Lessons for Defend­ing Democ­ra­cy Against Tyran­ny in a New Video Series

Why Socrates Hat­ed Democ­ra­cies: An Ani­mat­ed Case for Why Self-Gov­ern­ment Requires Wis­dom & Edu­ca­tion

Han­nah Arendt Explains Why Democ­ra­cies Need to Safe­guard the Free Press & Truth … to Defend Them­selves Against Dic­ta­tors and Their Lies

Does Democ­ra­cy Demand the Tol­er­ance of the Intol­er­ant? Karl Popper’s Para­dox

Bertrand Russell’s Ten Com­mand­ments for Liv­ing in a Healthy Democ­ra­cy

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Meet Little Amal, the 12-Foot Puppet of a 10-Year-Old Syrian Girl, Who Has Been Touring the World

Lit­tle Amal is a 10-year-old Syr­i­an girl from a small vil­lage near Alep­po, a refugee and unac­com­pa­nied minor, who’s trav­eled over 9,000 kilo­me­ters over the last 15 months, hop­ing to reunite with her moth­er.

Lit­tle Amal is also a 12-foot tall rod pup­pet, oper­at­ed by three per­form­ers — one on stilts inside her mold­ed cane tor­so, to oper­ate her head, face and legs, with two more tak­ing charge of her hands.

As her cre­ators, Hand­spring Pup­pet Com­pa­ny co-founders Adri­an Kohler and Basil Jones, explain above, Amal’s pup­peteers must enter a group mind state when inter­act­ing with the crowds who turn out to meet her at free, com­mu­ni­ty-cre­at­ed events:

If the per­son inside on the stilts decides to turn left, the oth­er two have to respond imme­di­ate­ly as the arms would, so they all think the same thought.

Amal, who trav­els with three times as many pup­peteers as are required for any giv­en appear­ance and two back up ver­sions of her­self in case of mal­func­tion, is tru­ly a mir­a­cle of non-ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

As a child who doesn’t speak the lan­guage of the coun­tries she has vis­it­ed, she express­es her­self with ges­tures, and seem­ing­ly invol­un­tary micro-move­ments.

She bows gra­cious­ly in both greet­ing and farewell, tak­ing extra time to touch hands with lit­tle chil­dren.

She swivels her head, eager­ly, if a bit appre­hen­sive­ly, tak­ing in her sur­round­ings.

Her lips part in won­der, reveal­ing a row of pearly teeth.

Her big, expres­sive eyes are oper­at­ed by the per­former on stilts, using a track­pad on a tiny com­put­er.

The light­weight rib­bons that make up her long hair, pulled none too tidi­ly away from her face with a flop­py bow, catch the breeze as she tow­ers above her well wish­ers.

After stops in Turkey, Greece, Italy, Switzer­land, Ger­many, Bel­gium, France and the UK, Lit­tle Amal land­ed in New York City, where mem­bers of the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Opera Orches­tra and Children’s Cho­rus ser­e­nad­ed her with Evening Song from Philip Glass’ opera Satya­gra­ha as she passed through John F. Kennedy Inter­na­tion­al Air­port.

The New York Times’ Matt Stevens described the scene as Amal came into view:

As her head peeked out from above met­al bar­ri­ers, Lit­tle Amal widened her eyes as she took in the arrivals ter­mi­nal at Kennedy Inter­na­tion­al Air­port on Wednes­day. She looked left, then right, clutch­ing her big green suit­case with its rain­bow and sun stick­ers. She was, as new­com­ers to New York City so often are, a lit­tle ner­vous, and a lit­tle lost…(she) appeared trans­fixed by the music — much like the many trav­el­ers strolling by with their suit­cas­es appeared trans­fixed by the 12-foot-tall pup­pet sud­den­ly tow­er­ing before them. Still, she was trep­i­da­tious, a tad reluc­tant to approach the orches­tra. At least, that is, until a cho­rus mem­ber — a girl wear­ing a sun­flower yel­low shirt — went up to her and took her by the hand.

With 50 events in 20 days, Lit­tle Amal had a packed sched­ule that includ­ed a nigh­t­ime vis­it to Jane’s Carousel in Brook­lyn Bridge Park and an ear­ly morn­ing trip along Coney Island’s board­walk. Unlike most first time vis­i­tors, she spent time in Queens, Stat­en Island and The Bronx.

A New Orleans style sec­ond line pro­ces­sion­al escort­ed her a lit­tle over a dozen blocks, from Lin­coln Cen­ter, where she inter­act­ed with dancers and per­for­mance artist Machine Daz­zle, to the Amer­i­can Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry, above.

New York’s immi­grant his­to­ry was evi­dent in Lit­tle Amal’s tour of the Low­er East Side and Chi­na­town, with stops at the Ten­e­ment Muse­um and the Clemente Soto Vélez Cul­tur­al & Edu­ca­tion­al Cen­ter.

With every appear­ance, Amal’s incred­i­bly life­like move­ments and dig­ni­fied reserved turned adults as well as chil­dren turned into believ­ers, while bring­ing atten­tion to the tens of thou­sands of chil­dren who have fled war and per­se­cu­tion in their home coun­tries.

See pho­tos and read more about Lit­tle Amal’s past and future trav­els here.

Down­load a free Lit­tle Amal activ­i­ty and edu­ca­tion pack here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Jim Hen­son Teach­es You How to Make Pup­pets in Vin­tage Primer From 1969

The Hand Pup­pets That Bauhaus Artist Paul Klee Made for His Young Son

Albert Ein­stein Hold­ing an Albert Ein­stein Pup­pet (Cir­ca 1931)

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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