The Wayang Golek folk art puppet theater is a popular art form with a long tradition in Indonesia and one of the most famous forms of puppet theater in the world. Asep Sunandar Sunarya is a third generation Wayang Golek Purwa Dalang-maestro puppeteer
West Java is the home base of Wayang Golek tradition which features 3D wooden rod puppets that are the descendants of Wayang Kulit shadow puppets from Central Java. Asep Sunandar Sunarya is a third generation Wayang Golek Purwa Dalang (maestro puppeteer) who is widely credited as the hero/super star who modernized the tradition by adapting it to suit modern audiences, while retaining the core of the tradition keeping true to his mantra of ‘adaptation with appreciation’. Dalang Asep is one of Indonesia’s most sought-after Wayang Golek dalangs and many individuals all over the country consider his puppet shows a rare honour at any wedding/circumcision ceremony/celebration of a special occasion. His international tours and collaborations have also created recognition for this puppet form throughout the world and created invaluable opportunities for foreign artists/students to learn/develop/progress this tradition under the mentorship of him and his family maestros. Thus, he is renowned as a teacher/influencer who has had great impact on the practice/progression of Wayang Goleks both locally and internationally.
At present, Dalang Asep heads Giri Harja III - a puppet community complete with dalangs, musicians, puppet designers/carvers/painters and a host of other professionals connected to this art form. His home in Jelekong, Bandung is puppet manufacturing center as well as a training/rehearsal space for emerging dalangs. Two out of his fourteen children (Dadan and Yogaswara Sunarya) are professional dalangs and one son ( Bhatara Sena) is a professional puppet designer who is continuing the initiatives of his father of advancing innovative puppet designs to attract modern audiences. Dalang Asep’s all-night Wayang Golek Purwa performances attract massive crowds who are enchanted by his mastery of weaving contemporary characters and issues into traditional Wayang stories descending from the Indian epics of Mahabaratha and Ramayana. The dynamic interactions between the dalang and the thirty-member traditional gamelan orchestra (comprising of all males except for three female singers) fuel each performance with energy and humour as the dalang skillfully intertwines dialogue, music and physical action/comedy to disperse the timeless religious philosophies through these intricate puppets.