Day 39 | Samerang Java | Touch An Old Tradition

Feb 16, 2017News0 comments

To embrace all is to be selfless.

Lao Tzu

Shadows cast by elaborate carved leather puppets perform on a portable framed cloth screen with lamps behind. The puppet?s name comes from the wayang kulit meaning ?shadow hide?. This art is one of the oldest continuous traditions of storytelling in the world. The puppeteer speaks the parts for the characters and sings while guiding the orchestra.

A court poet during the reign of King Airlangga (1035?1049) wrote: ?There are?people who weep, are sad and aroused watching the puppets, though they know they are merely carved pieces of?leather manipulated and made to speak. These people are like men who, thirsting for sensuous pleasures, live in a?world of illusion; they do not realize the magic hallucinations they see are not real.?

Before the performance I saw these four men dressed in Javanese clothing, including the beautiful sarongs, eating lunch. I asked them where they were performing and they invited me to come back after their afternoon shadow puppet performance. The 30 minute show seemed hours long as I couldn?t wait to touch the buffalo/goat hides made into the lacy elaborately carved puppets. They had dozens of puppets spread out on the floor. Each one painted in vivid colors which the watcher only sees the black shadow on the other side of the screen.

I felt a certain sense of awe that these young boys were carrying on this old tradition.

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Jackie Chase

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