Wayang kulit is the most famous Indonesian version of the shadow puppet’s performance. This art is well known and widespread in Southeast Asia. The puppets, stories and performance may vary from region to region. So far, the islands Java and Bali are the centres of wayang kulit culture. Especially the cities of Yogyakarta and Surakarta on Java.
While wayang means puppet, kulit means the skin from usually a cow. The arms and legs of the puppets are made from wood, mounted on rods and are moveable. However, the puppet itself is made from leather and is colourfully painted.
Wayang kulit is today the most famous performance to play the shadow puppet in Indonesia. It’s always a well-attended highlight, usually accompanied by other formal events or ceremonies.
The ancient time stories are based on the Hindu epics of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Each puppet has its own character. There are innumerable ancient recorded chronicles even today. Anyhow, everyday topics, rumours or gossip can also be part of the performance.
Even Tuban, had many prominent performances on Alun Alun each year. Performances usually start in the evening and finish sometimes early in the morning. People, young and old gather in the early evening and enjoy together the event until the end.
The puppet player is called Dalang. He also gives the puppets their voice. Nevertheless, he is accompanied by a gamelan orchestra. A gamelan orchestra is a traditional music ensemble performing predominantly percussion instruments, flutes and string instruments.
On top of that, also mostly female singers are involved in the performances. The singers are called sindhen in Bahasa.
In the end, wayang kulit is an art and performance with a very long history which still inspires enthusiasm among the public today. It’s a vital part of Indonesian culture.