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Wayang Golek – Javanese puppets

 

The “Wayang Goleks” are the three-dimensional round puppets popular in west Java. They play a part of importance in the traditional performing arts of their Island. Despite the increasing encroachment of films & television, Wayang Golek still flourishes all over.

The Wayang originated with the ancient ceremonial custom of ancestor worship. Small leather figures held behind a back lit screen were used to represent the departed ancestors, as it was believed that the rites pleased the spirits or souls of the departed and invited their presence so that they could be consulted for advice in family matters. The Shadow Play has its origin in the ancient belief that spirits of the departed came down to earth at night and that the soul of a departed person took the form of a shadow. Over time, the rites evolved into a play not merely to entertain but to inform and to educate the people.

Puppet performances for ritual feasts, celebrations, wedding occur regularly, often in modest village compounds.

The performance always starts around 9pm and continues till dawn, accompanied by the gentle music of the “Gamelan”, which insinuating, liquid moonlight melodies during the stage play.

All Javanese Theater has its origin in these puppet plays. Actors are referred to “Wayang” the term means “shadow”. The name “Wayang” is in the name of other theater expressions: Wayang Topeng (mask drama) and Wayang Orang (Dance Drama).

The “Dalang” or puppeteer is skilled in stagehand, actor, impersonator, singer, orchestra conductor, historian, counselor, comedian and storytelling. They usually perform episodes from the “Mahabarata” Epic. The puppeteer introduces bawdy asides and outrageous satires while continually reaffirming the harmony and balance between antagonists and protagonist, which is the central motif in Javanese worldview.

 

 

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