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Puppertry of Bali Indone


                    Puppetry of Bali & Indonesia

Shadow puppets (wayang kulit), made of painted water buffalo skin, have a long tradition in Bali. Wayang comes from the Indonesian word for shadow  bayang.  They're used to reenact popular stories as entertainment - and on ceremonial occasions. Shadow puppet shows are performed at night with a while cloth that is backlit. The "dalang" (puppet master) chants the story while moving the puppets against the backlit screen.  Often he is accompanied by a gamelan orchestra.

The Wayang Kulit of Bali are known to be the most prominent Balinese theatrical performances.  Bali's culture is derived from pre-Hindu, Hindu, and Islamic influences.  These performances preserve the country's heritage.  Wayang kulit, shadow puppetry using figures made from water buffalo hide, is considered to be the oldest freestanding puppet form; the earliest references to it dates from the 800s.

There is still a debate whether puppetry is indigenous to Indonesia or was introduced by India or China. There appears to be a connection between the jesters and ancestral spirits, these jesters appear in every play and have no Indian precedent.  It is thought that Semar, the principal jester, is said to be the ancestral spirit of the island of Java and is sometimes used in healing or protective rites.

Even today in some areas of Indonesia, carvings, puppets, and gongs are considered by some to be objects that ancestral spirits can temporarily inhabit. Performances of puppetry are still held once a year at cemeteries where the founders of each village are buried.  Ancestors are believed to have particular favorite stories.
There is evidence that local animism has been a source of the puppet arts.  In the past, if the  harvest was threatened by various pests, the story of the    Indonesian rice goddess, Sri, might be performed to ward off the attack. Today, these ritual     stories are seldom performed, but they remain part of the history of the art.

The plays are usually based on stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata Hindu epics. The Ramayana consists of 24,000 verses in 7 books and 500 cantos.  It tells the story of Rama (an avator of the Hindu supreme-god Vishnu), whose wife Sita is abducted by Ravana, the king of Lanka (Sri Lanka ).  The plays also tell Bali's history, religious and spiritual teachings, poetry, and philosophy. 

The characters (puppets) are demi-gods, demons, magic men, and romantic lovers.  There are many different stories which have been passed from generation to generation by the puppet theater including high drama, improvisations, and comedy.

Regardless of whether the impulse behind wayang is indigenous, widespread development of the art took place during the Hindu-Buddhist period, especially between 800 and 1500 AD.

Unlike shadow puppet theater, which requires darkness to enact, rod puppet theater can be performed at any hour. Wayang golek are wooden doll puppets operated from below by rods connected to their hands and a central control rod that runs through the body to the head.  This simple construction makes for their versatility, expressiveness and aptitude for imitating human dance.  

Rod puppets have a long history in China, and it is possible that these figures reflect Chinese influence (thought by some scholars to have been brought by the Chinese Muslims who took part in converting the Javanese to Islam), as the region where along the north coast of Java these wooden puppets flourished was   heavily populated by the Chinese. 

The wooden doll puppets were used solely to tell Islamic tales while Wayang leather puppets were used for Hindu-based stories.

Wayang klitik figures occupy a middle ground between the figures of wayang golek and wayang kulit. They are constructed similarly to wayang kulit figures, but from thin pieces of wood instead of leather, and, like wayang kulit figures, are used as shadow puppets. A further similarity is that they are the same smaller size as wayang kulit figures. However, wood is more subject to breakage than leather. During battle scenes, wayang klitik figures often sustain considerable damage, much to the amusement of the public, but in a country in which before 1970 there were no adequate glues available, breakage generally meant an expensive, newly made figure. On this basis the wayang klitik figures, which are to appear in plays where they have to endure battle scenes, have leather arms. The name of these figures is onomotopaeic, from the sound klitik-klitik, that these  figures make when worked by the dalang.

The construction of the Buffalo Skin puppets is very intricate.  The cured leather is carefully chiseled with very

fine tools.  The many holes allows light to filter through, making the images standout during the light show.  The puppet is supported by shaped  buffalo horn handles and control rods.

After the figure is cut, it is carefully painted with bright colors and air dried.  Then the support handles are attached . 

 The three types of puppets are popular with tourists to Indonesia. ~

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