5.10.11 Indonesian Arts & Crafts: Part 2

Wayang 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife
Wayang, “theater” in Javanese, is the word used to refer to traditional Indonesian shadow puppets. Though beautifully rendered and colored, the puppets are held up behind a screen so only their outlines are visible. These intricate plays of shadow and light are often based on romantic tales, especially adaptations of the classic Indian epics The Mahabarata and The Ramayana. Some of them also depict local happenings, current events or other secular stories. Performances are generally accompanied by gamelan, an orchestra composed of metallophones, xylophones, drums, gongs, bamboo flutes and strings. The puppets are made in various styles, with perhaps the best known being the wayang kulit, crafted from parchment-like sheets of dried water buffalo hide (kulit). As with batik, UNESCO designated wayang kulit a “Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” in 2003, making it incumbent upon the Indonesians to preserve this precious indigenous art form.
Puppet making 790 xxx
an artisan makes wayang kulit from a piece of water buffalo hide
Using fine tools, artisans chisel designs into the buffalo hide. The perforations create a delicate lacework effect that gives the puppets lightness and definition behind the screen. Each one is finished with an intricate paint job. Carefully shaped buffalo horn handles and control rods are used to manipulate these marvelous creations. The handwork involved in making puppets suitable for performance takes several weeks, with artists working together in groups to perfect each stage.
Painted puppet 790 xxx
although these will be hidden behind a screen, they are still beautifully painted
Wayang klitik shadow puppets are constructed similarly to wayang kulit, but are made from thin pieces of wood instead of water buffalo hide. Their name is onomotopaeic, taken from the clacking (klitik-klitik) sound they make. During battle scenes, these less pliable puppets often sustain considerable damage, much to the great amusement of the audience.
Wayang klitik 790 xxx
wooden wayang klitik have spindly yet graceful extremities
Wayang golek are wooden doll puppets, simply constructed but wonderfully expressive. Unlike other wayang, they are not used behind a screen. This style is thought to have originated in China, arriving in Java sometime in the 17th century.
Wooden puppet 790 xxx
the artisans are pleased to demonstrate their work
Puppet heads 790 xxx
many of the faces wear outrageous leers and frightening expressions
Haruman 790 xxx
haruman is the hindu monkey god
Iguana 790 xxx
outside the wayang workshop, an enormous iguana languished in a rickety cage