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Wayang Kulit: Balinese Shadow Puppets from The Trout Gallery Collection.

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Emily Rother

on 9 May 2011

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Transcript of Wayang Kulit: Balinese Shadow Puppets from The Trout Gallery Collection.


Art and Ritual in Balinese Shadow Puppet Theater Wayang Kulit: Male Hero
Wayang Kulit Puppet
Gift of Joseph Ellis
1985.8.19.14 Gamelan Gamelan is the Balinese word for orchestra. Gamelans can have as many as eighty instruments, or as few as two. These may include gongs of different sizes, xylophone-type instruments with bars to be struck by one or two mallets, flutes and drums. Wayang Kulit performances in Bali are accompanied by a group of four instruments called gender wayang. The Gender Wayang is a xylophone-type instrument has ten bars, rather than the standard fourteen bars of other types of gender, and is played with two hard wooden mallets. Musicians are led by cues from the Dalang as he taps a little wooden mallet against the puppet box (keropak). Works Cited Bali is often called the Island of a Thousand Temples, and there are indeed a thousand or more. The Balinese people build their lives around a complex calendar system of rituals, festivals, and purification ceremonies dedicated to one or more of the deities associated with nature, the ancestors, and gods of the Hindu pantheon that the Balinese worship. During every extravagant celebration of faith, the Balinese believe that their deities come down to the temples and inhabit statues or sit on thrones left empty specifically for them. The lavish offerings, decorations, and performances that characterize Balinese religious events should all be viewed as courtesies to their exalted guests.
Wayang Kulit performances are one of many ways that the Balinese welcome their gods. Using flat puppets made of buffalo skin (kulit), the puppet-master recounts harrowing tales of heroes, princesses and gods from the major religious texts of the Balinese Hindu religion- the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. These performances appease the gods; during a wayang performance the “protective influence” of the performance keeps the people in the temple safe from evil spirits.
Art and Ritual in Balinese Shadow Puppet Theater Wayang Kulit: Demon attacked by a monkey warrior from shadow puppet (Wayang Kulit) performance
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1985.8.19.3 Hanuman from shadow puppet (Wayang Kulit) performance of the Ramayana
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1985.8.19.4 Merdah, a shadow puppet (Wayang Kulit) clown
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1985.8.19.12 Merdah or Delem shadow puppet (Wayang Kulit) clown
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1985.8.19.11 Monkey warrior to used in shadow puppet (Wayang Kulit) performances of the Ramayana
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1985.8.19.16 Monkey warrior used in shadow puppet (Wayang Kulit) performances of the Ramayana
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1985.8.19.1
Wayang (puppet) Kulit (skin) Shadow Puppets from the Ramayana The stylized form of Wayang puppets is based on a long held tradition common throughout all mediums in Bali. Heroes and gods are always depicted in the flat, profile type that is defined by wayang characters. Wayang Kulit shadow puppets are made from water buffalo hide, soaked, stretched, and scraped. The outlines of the characters are sacred; a Dalang will not “freehand draw” them. Rather, he copies them from templates taken from a master Dalang or a puppet set owned by a wealthy family The monkey king Subali from the shadow puppet (Wayang Kulit) performance of the Ramayana
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1985.8.19.8 The monkey king Sugriva from shadow puppet (Wayang Kulit) performance of the Ramayana
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1985.8.19.5
Twalen, a shadow puppet (Wayang Kulit) clown
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1985.8.19.13 Unidentified heroine from a shadow puppet (Wayang Kulit) performance
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1985.8.19.10 Unidentified male hero from a shadow puppet (Wayang Kulit) performance
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1985.8.19.9 Unidentified male shadow puppet (Wayang Kulit)
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1985.8.19.15 Demon attacked by a monkey warrior from shadow puppet (Wayang Kulit) performance
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1985.8.19.3 The Monkey King Sugriva and his Monkey Warriors Gamelan player
Watercolor on paper
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1985.8.41.28
The Dalang Characterization Wayang Kulit puppets follow traditional guidelines that assign particular physical attributes to characters based on their personalities. The shape of a puppet’s face/nose/eyes, position of head, size, structure of body, and width of stance can indicate their personality. A character with a down-turned head, for example, shows deference to the gods. Likewise, the elegant features and almond shaped eyes of the heroic puppets indicate their refined nature. Coloration of the puppets is also determined by specific guidelines, some of which are quite esoteric. For example, a puppet with a black face can only have teeth that are red or gold, not white. Color, especially of the face, can also indicate personality. A black face can represent age or a strong character, red symbolizes propensity to anger, gold indicates dignity and tranquility, and white is associated with youth, innocence and honesty. The Gunung The gunung (tree of life or sacred mountain) marks the beginning and end of a wayang performance, as well as scene transitions between. When it is skillfully manipulated, it can simulate “moving water, scurrying clouds, a tempest, and flickering flames.” Gunung representing the cosmic tree or mountain
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1985.8.19.7

Wayang Kulit clown' possibly Sangut,
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1985.8.19.6 Wayang Kulit performances are spoken in all three levels of Balinese as well as in Kawi (old Balinese, the language of the gods) depending on who is being addressed. The role of the Panasars, comical, bumbling characters, is both to entertain and to translate. Most Balinese do not speak Kawi, so the Panasars translate events into low Balinese for the audience. They also provide comic relief through bawdy jokes, commentary on current events, and sometimes very specific jibes at audience members.

Twalen and Merdah comment on the side of the hero, which is visually apparent through their appearances. Both have their heads lowered, in deference to the gods, and their eyes have the same almond shape as the good characters. Twalen is said to be the symbol of knowelege, openheartedness, and wisdom. Merdah, his son, is sly but well meaning. The Panasars:
Clowns of Wayang Kulit Delem and Sangut comment on the side of the villains. Delem is boastful, impolite, and cowardly, while his companion Sangut is the epitome of an opportunist, a terrible trait to have in Hindu Bali where each person is concerned with fulfilling his dharma and maintaining his place in the ordered universe.

The left one of these two puppets is an 'unidentified' character, and the right one is identified as Merdah, from a differernt Dalang's collection than the other. However, it is possible that based on their features, notably their teeth, which are “kasar,” meaning coarse, an attribute that is associated with “bad” and even “evil” for the Balinese, that they are in fact Delem and Sangut.
Characters:Rama: the incarnation of Vishnu as a human prince.
Sita: Rama’s beloved wife, who was captured by Ravana.
Ravana: a powerful, evil king of Lanka with a grudge against Rama and his family.
Sugriva: King of the monkey kingdom, he pledged to help Rama in his quest to find Sita
Hanuman: Sugriva’s monkey general, he is devoted to Rama from the moment they meet

These puppets all come from the battle that ensues when Rama, accompanied by Hanuman and the monkey army, go to Lanka to attack Ravana’s palace. Monkeys are popular in Balinese legends and art, they are often depicted as intelligent and noble, like the characters from the Ramayana. Tales from the Ramayana: The Battle for Sita The puppets depicting heroes have specific visual characteristics that make their goodness visible for the Balinese viewers. A character with a down-turned head, for example, shows deference to the gods. Likewise, the elegant features and almond shaped eyes of the heroic puppets indicate their refined nature. Heroes of Wayang Kulit More than just the “puppet master,” a dalang (sometimes spelled dhalang) orchestrates the entire wayang kulit performance, taking on the roles of storyteller, comedian, and artist. Within the context of the story, generally from the Hindu epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, or a local folktale, the dalang elaborates philosophical themes of virtue, morality, and humanism. The dalang tells these elaborate tales from memory with attention to their mandated structure and timing, improvising almost all of the dialogue in four different languages. He creates the characters of each of the hundred-or-so puppets through movement and voice so that each one is identifiable to an attentive viewer based on gait and gesture alone. Part of the modern appeal of wayang theater is its entertainment value, which never grows old because the dialogue is improvised to fit the audience. A good dalang will read the audience’s reactions and lengthen or shorten scenes accordingly. Traditionally, most dalangs also created all of their own wayang kulit puppets, although this has changed in modern times. Dalangs are often viewed as priests because of the ritual nature of wayang kulit. In Bali, a priest’s primary responsibility is to be a ritual specialist who knows when and what sort of rituals will please the gods and maintain balance. A Wayang Kulit performance is an important ritual in any temple festival, and it is believed to have a protective influence on the audience. In some cases, “the audience might believe that, during the performance, the shadow puppets and the dalang are charmed by protective or magical spirits,” an assumption that is understandable considering the trance-like state that the dalang enters. He does not move for the entire duration of the performance, which often lasts all night, and he speaks in Kawi, a tongue associated with “balian tasku,” Balinese shamans through whom ancestor spirits and deities communicate with Balinese people.
In addition, the authority of a Balinese priest stems, in part, from their knowledge of religious legends and deities, which is often equaled by a good dalang. Puppet Master Priest Wayang performances begin after dark and often last for eight or nine hours, during which time the puppet-master, called the dalang, is the only person expected not to move. The audience, which consists of both people and deities, may watch the shadows from the front of the screen, or the dalang and gamelan players from behind it. There are no rules against talking, eating, or even napping. All of these things are expected; guests are plied with food throughout the performance, and they often get up to walk around the screen and watch from a different point of view.

The screen used for Wayang Kulit, called a Kelir, is a specialized piece of equipment. It is made of white cotton with a colored border, stretched within a wooden frame. The lower edge is pinned to a large banana log, creating a scalloped effect that gives the dalang guidelines for moving the puppets about on screen. The stage, called the debog, is made of a few banana logs, arranged at different heights. Banana logs have a pulpy quality allows the dalang to thrust the pointed ends of puppet rods into them, holding the character in place. Performance
The blencong lamp was used to illuminate the screen, kelir, from behind. This blencong is in the shape of Garuda, the mythical bird-vehicle of the Hindu god Wisnu. Blencong
Brass
Late 19th century
JavaThe British Museum “Balinese Shadow Theater”Arjuna's Meditation: An excerpt from the Mahabharata, performed by Shadowmaster I Wayan Nartha.Asian Art Museum © 2011 Gender Wayang
n.d.
Bali, Indonesia Gender Wayang
n.d.
Bali, Indonesia Kemong
Wood, bronze, string, pigments
1900-1930Karangasem, East Bali
Collection, Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam Kothak
Designed by Ki Purbo Asmoro
Museum of International Folk Art
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