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Shaddow Puppets (Wayang Kulit)


Made from leather, the Wayanf Kulit or shaddow puppets, are beautifully carved by hand and painted with gilt and some times gold. These puppets are not only some of the greatest art works in Indonesia, but are alos one of the countries most beloved forms of entertainment.

Dating back more than a thousand years, these frail figures supported on posts of wood are seen as instruments of gods, the very simbols of the ages old struggle between good and evil.

Traditionally, the puppets enact an array of different and often well known stories, passing on stories from one generation to the next in a region of the world where the written word was not available to the vast majority of the population.

Some feature epic events from the Indian Ramayana, others show heroic deeds or tales of vicious battles between the gods and mortals.  Often the performances are modernised or spiced up with a dash of local politics or historical references, livened up with a spot of comedy and accompanied by the sounds of the four piece gamelan orchestra.

The puppet master or dalang, will sit cross-legged for upto 8 hours, behind a screen lit up by the flame of an oil lamp. He alone will manipulate the puppets and creat a narrative of upto 50 voices, beating the tiny cymbol with his feet in a unique display of drama and passion. Only at the end of the performance is there silence, when the power of good symbolically vanquishes the power of evil.

You may occassionally come across a full length version of the Wayang Kulit, held at a temple festival or as part of a local celebration. Shorter versions are also held at tourist venues in Yogyakarta or Ubud. Elsewhere you will find plenty of local factories producing the beautiful hand made puppets.


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