Desmond’s World Puppet Show

Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “Children are a wonderful gift. They have an extraordinary capacity to see into the heart of things”.  In 2023, in partnership with the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) (through funding from the German Bavarian Parliament) the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation has launched a puppet show aimed at inculcating the values and principles of the Arch in young children aged 4 to 8 years. The puppet show, called Desmond’s World, marks the beginning of the Foundation’s early childhood development (ECD) programme, fondly known as Tutu Tots.

While many people know the beloved Arch for his activism, Tutu also wrote several children’s books aimed at affirming and inspiring young minds. One book in particular, Desmond and the Very Mean Word was the inspiration for the puppet show. In the book, the Archbishop shares his experience of being bullied as a young boy, and how he handled this with the help of a trusted adult, Father Trevor Huddleston, learning valuable life lessons in the process.

Janet Jobson, CEO at the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, noted that Archbishop Tutu’s love for children, and his belief in our moral obligation to educate them, was the motivation behind developing the show.  “Our aim is to share Archbishop Tutu’s legacy with young children by foregrounding virtues such as: humanity and connectedness (ubuntu), courage, compassion and forgiveness, that the Arch embodied his whole life”. These socio-emotional skills are fundamental to develop at a young age, and through the playful nature of puppetry, we aim to create a platform for children to grow their capacities.

The Learning from Legacy Programme team has been piloting the Desmond’s World puppet show since September 2023 in partnership with ECD centres from District Six and beyond, and the feedback has been positive and heart-warming. The Desmond’s World puppet show launched in November 2023 and by the end of the year had already captured the bright minds of 550 pre-schoolers and Foundation phase learners. We have received very positive reviews from ECD practitioners and teachers, with tales of children going back to their schools and crafting their own puppet shows!

In 2024 we aim to expand the audience for Desmond’s World and to expand the range of stories we tell – drawing on other children’s books written by Desmond Tutu. ECD centres and primary schools from across Cape Town are invited to bring their pre-schoolers and foundation phase learners to enjoy this learning adventure.

Bookings can be made by emailing