Wayang Kulit

Love Engine | Monday, 19 January 2015 - 17:23:55 WIB | be read: 3550 reader

Javanese wayang (puppet) theatre has been a major way of preserving the Hindu- Buddhist heritage in Java. Wayang kulit is the art of theatre performances using shadow puppets. Perforated leather figures are manipulated behind an illuminated cotton screen to retell stories,
which are usually based on Hindu epics the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Unsurprisingly, wayang kulit owes much to Indian tradition.
In a traditional performance, a whole night might be devoted to just one lakon (drama). Many wayang kulit figures and stories have a specific mystical function; certain stories are performed to protect a crop, a village or even individuals.
By the 11th century, wayang performances with leather puppets flourished in Java, and by the end of the 18th century wayang kulit had developed most of the details we see today. The standardisation of the puppet designs is traditionally attributed to King Raden Patah of Demak, a 16th-century Islamic king.
The creation of a puppet is an art form in itself. First, an outline is cut using a knife, then the fine details are carved out using small chisels and a hammer. When the carving is finished, the movable arms are attached and the puppet is painted. Lines are drawn in and accentuated with black ink before the cempurit, the stick of horn used to hold the puppet upright, is attached.
The leaf-shaped kayon represents the ‘tree’ or ‘mountain of life’, and is used to end scenes or to symbolise wind, mountains, obstacles, clouds or the sea. The characters in wayang are brought to life by a single dalang (puppeteer), who might manipulate dozens of figures during a performance. The dalang must be a linguist, capable of speaking both the language of the audience and the ancient Kawi language of the aristocratic protagonists of the play. He must also be able to reproduce the different voices of the characters, as well as be responsible for directing the accompanying gamelan orchestra.

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