A shadow puppet theatre performance of the famous Pendawa Boyong legend, was held at Pendopo Cultural Hall in East Java accompanied by traditional music. Surabaya, Indonesia. 17th September 2011
The puppet performing Pendawa Boyong, told about after Pendawa won the Baratayuda war, then moved to the Astina Country. Played by the dalang Ki Andik Ferry Wibisono of Jember Regency.
This art performance has been more than five centuries of age. Usually presenting the story of Ramayana and Mahabharata, this overnight performance serves the proper space to spend the night, reflect and understand Javanese life philosophy.
Wayang is a Javanese word for theatre (literally "shadow"). When the term is used to refer to kinds of puppet theatre, sometimes the puppet itself is referred to as wayang. Performances of shadow puppet theatre are accompanied by gamelan in Java, and by "gender wayang" in Bali.
UNESCO designated Wayang Kulit, a shadow puppet theatre and the best known of the Indonesian wayang, as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on 7 November 2003. In return for the acknowledgment, UNESCO required Indonesians to preserve their heritage.
Wayang kulit, shadow puppets prevalent in Java and Bali in Indonesia, are without a doubt the best known of the Indonesian wayang. Kulit means skin, and refers to the leather construction of the puppets that are carefully chiselled with very fine tools and supported with carefully shaped buffalo horn handles and control rods.
Leather puppet (wayang kulit/shadow puppet) show is done by the puppeteer (dalang) who is also the storyteller who is possibly considered the best entertainer in the world. All the night, he plays all the characters of the leather puppets forming human characters made from buffalo skin decorated with motif as the product of leather carving. He has to change the voice character, switch the intonation, produce humor and even sing. In order to make the atmosphere vivid, the storyteller is assisted by musicians who play gamelan - the traditional Javanese music instruments - and the female singers called sinden who sing Javanese songs.
There is a family of characters in Javanese wayang called Punakawan; they are sometimes referred to as "clown-servants" because they normally are associated with the story's hero, and provide humorous and philosophical interludes. Semar is the father of Gareng (oldest son), Petruk, and Bagong (youngest son). These characters did not originate in the Hindu epics, but were added later, possibly to introduce mystical aspects of Islam into the Hindu-Javanese stories. They provide something akin to a political cabaret, dealing with gossip and contemporary affairs.
The puppet figures themselves vary from place to place. In Central Java the city of Surakarta (Solo) and city of Yogyakarta are most famous and the most commonly imitated style of puppets. Regional styles of shadow puppets can also be found in West Java, Banyumas, Cirebon, Semarang, and East Java. Bali produces more compact and naturalistic figures, and Lombok has figures representing real people. Often modern-world objects as bicycles, automobiles, airplanes and ships will be added for comic effect, but for the most part the traditional puppet designs have changed little in the last 300 years.
The total characters in leather puppet show number in the hundreds. The puppets that are not played are stuck in banana stem that is placed close to the storyteller. While being played, the puppets will look as shadow from rear view of the white screen in front of the storyteller. The shadow is created by the light from the oil lamp placed at the upper rear of the storyteller that is cut off by the puppets being played on the screen.
Each puppet performance presents different story or act. The act variations are divided into four categories namely lakon pakem, lakon carangan, lakon gubahan, and lakon karangan. Lakon pakem is the standard story that entirely originates from leather puppet literature while lakon carangan is only the main story that also refers to the leather puppet literature. Lakon gubahan does not origin from the leather puppet stories but it uses the places in accordance with leather puppet literature; lakon karangan is entirely a free story.
Historically, the performance consisted of shadows cast on a cotton screen and an oil lamp. Today, the source of light used in wayang performance in Java is most often a halogen electric light. Some modern forms of wayang such as Wayang Sandosa created in the Art Academy at Surakarta (STSI) has employed spotlights, colored lights and other innovations.
The handwork involved in making a wayang kulit figure that is suitable for a performance takes several weeks, with the artists working together in groups. They start from master models (typically on paper) which are traced out onto kulit (skin or parchment), providing the figures with an outline and with indications of any holes that will need to be cut (such as for the mouth or eyes). The figures are then smoothed, usually with a glass bottle, and primed. The structure is inspected and eventually the details are worked through. A further smoothing follows before individual painting, which is undertaken by yet another craftsman. Finally, the movable parts (upper arms, lower arms with hands and the associated sticks for manipulation) mounted on the body, which has a central staff by which it is held. A crew makes up to ten figures at a time, typically completing that number over the course of a week.
The painting of less expensive puppets is handled expediently with a spray technique, using templates, and with a different person handling each color. Less expensive puppets, often sold to children during performances, are sometimes made on cardboard instead of leather.
The stories in the leather puppet originated from some old books such as Ramayana, Mahabharata, Pustaka Raja Purwa and Purwakanda. Now, there are some books containing lakon gubahan and karangan that have been hundreds years to be liked by the society such as Abimanyu Kerem, Doraweca, Suryatmaja Maling and so on. Among the old books, Purwakanda book is most often used by the puppeteers from Yogyakarta Kingdom.
The leather puppet show begins when the dalang takes out a puppet in the shape of a mountain called gunungan. A nightlong leather puppet show in Yogyakarta style is divided into 3 scenes with 7 jejeran or acts and 7 war acts. The first scene, called pathet lasem, has 3 jejeran and 2 acts of war accompanied by pathet lasem Javanese musical composition. Pathet Sanga as the second scene has 2 jejeran and 2 war acts, while Pathet Manyura as the second scene has 2 jejeran and 3 war acts. One of the scenes that most spectators mostly wait is gara-gara that presents typical Javanese humor.