Kaohsiung Museum of shadow puppet
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The shadow plays of Indonesia are mainly popular in Java and Bali. The Javanese shadow play has three types: Wayang kulit, Wayang golek, and Wayang klitik. Among these three types, Wayang kulit has the longest history. Because of the influence of Islam, the puppets are very bright and their shapes are exaggerated in order to avoid idolatry, which is prohibited by the Koran.

Javanese shadow plays have no fixed theater and their equipment is portable. The kelir (window) is composed of a white cotton cloth and a red frame, and the performer sits behind the kelir. A metal oil lamp, sometimes replaced by a light bulb, is hung above the performer. Above the kelir are two banana stalks. The bottom one is short and the top one is long. They symbolize the world (earth), puppets (man), and kelir (heaven), and the performer (God) who has given life to the puppets. The performer will put the good man on the right side of the kelir; therefore, the right side of the kelir is the good world, while the left side is the evil world. There are two methods to developing a professional performer: passing expertise from father to son or from master to disciple. The performer has a very high social status because he knows the plot, puppet operation, spoken parts, music, and the ceremony to drive out evil spirits. The gamelan is made of less than 30 members who play gongs, drums, flutes, zithers, stringed instruments, xylophones, and so on. Xylophones and drums are the main instruments. After the musical opening ceremony, a tree of life/mountain symbolizing the universe will appear. When the tree appears in the middle of the kelir, it has many functions. First, it announces that the performance is starting. Second, it signifies the end of a scene. Third, it tells the audience that the play is over. Fourth, during the performance, “the tree of life/the mountain” can become any kind of scene, such as forest, palace, or mountain, or symbolize natural phenomena such as a storm, fire, or natural disaster.

Wayang golek is deeply influenced by Java’s Muslim culture. Characteristically of this form, both of male and female puppets’ head and arms are dimensionally carved from solid wood, the chest is filled with fabric, and the section below the waist is covered with a batik sarong so the performer can control the control sticks from inside to move the puppets and operate the puppets’ hands. Wayang golek does not use the shadow window as the stage, so the audience can see the performer and musicians backstage.

The puppets of Wayang klitik are carved from flat wood and the design of the figure’s shapes is based on the shadow play. The stories of Wayang klitik are inspired by a hero called Dama Wulan and folk or mythological stories from the 13th and 14th centuries. Waynak klitik is only played during the day for the main purpose of entertaining the public. Obviously, the invention of Wayang klitik is later than the shadow play.

Balinese shadow plays were imported from Java and still preserve the Indian cultural influence. However, they have evolved somewhat differently from those in Java. First, Balinese shadow plays can be performed during the day or at night. Second, the puppets of Balinese shadow plays are more realistic than those in Java. Third, there are fewer performers of Balinese shadow plays, so Balinese troupes are smaller.


Features of Shadow Puppets Flash


Map of Indonesia
Among the shadow puppets of Southeast Asia, the one with unique styles and the most vibrant of colors is the Indonesian variety.
Indonesian shadow puppets
Prince Pandji Ajura
Indonesian shadow puppets have a long history but repression by the Muslim culture has led to a transformation towards brighter colors and grotesque lines to avoid the ban on image worship. Scripts are mainly derived from the two famous Hindu epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, although already with some revisions. There are also scripts based on Indonesian heroic legends such as the Pandji series, as well as contemporary stories. After a long period of propagation, the current Indonesian shadow puppet theater also performs stories on Islam, Christianity and even Chinese stories.
Window and stage Musician group (gamwlan)
The Javanese shadow puppet theater is performed anywhere with its portable stage design. The window is made of white cotton cloth and red frames. The puppeteer sits behind the window where a metallic oil lamp is placed in front of the puppeteer. Some have adopted the use of electric bulbs. Two sections of banana trunks, the bottom shorter than the top, are placed on the lower portion of the window. These banana trunks represent the earth, man and heaven. The puppeteer is the god who gives life to the puppets. He sticks the good characters to the right side of the window and the left side is reserved for the villains.
The training of puppeteers is carried out in two ways: father to son, and master to disciple. Puppeteers were expected to know the plot, how to manipulate puppets, the dialogues, music and the rites of exorcism. They occupy a lofty position in society.
The musical ensemble, or gamelan, consists of less than 30 musicians who play instruments such as gongs, drums, flutes, zither, stringed instruments, and wooden xylophones. Of them, the more common are the wooden xylophones and hand drums.
Tree of life
After the musical opening rites, the tree of life/mountain appears to symbolize the universe. The appearance of the tree of life at the center of the window has several functions: 1. It signals the start of the performance, 2. It ends a scene, 3. The presentation is completed, 4. During performance, the tree of life/mountain can, based on the plot, be transformed into various sceneries such as forest, palaces, ravines or made to represent all types of natural phenomenon, such as stormy rain, fire, natural calamities, etc. After the tree of life/mountain is removed from the scene, the actual performance starts at nine o’clock/.
Seri Rama
Now, let us examine the famous Indonesian Javanese shadow puppets. This is Seri Rama, the Hindu poet, and the lead character of the epic Ramayana. Let’s compare it with the Seri Rama of Malaysian shadow puppet theater. Isn’t this Javanese version more intricately made? Puppets in the Javanese shadow puppet theater are usually made from cowhide, and done with thin, elongated arms that are movable. The rest of the body comes in one piece. The biggest difference in the handle is that it is made of cow horn and carved with great detail and beauty.

No. 42, Gangshan S. Rd.,Gangshan District,
Kaohsiung City 82060, Taiwan(Museum Hours)
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