Wayang Kulit, the Traditional Art of Java

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Wayang kulit is an original traditional art from Java. It is a precious and valuable inheritance which is origin from Indonesia. There are two statements about the derivation of wayang. The first statement said that wayang is from the word “Ma Hyang” which means about the spirit and the God. The second statement said that wayang is from the Javanese language which means the shadow because people can watch wayang show from only its shadow. Wayang is played by a puppeteer who also plays as a narrator for the character in wayang story. Wayang is played by being accompanied with traditional gamelan music and java woman singer. A puppeteer plays wayang in behind kelir (a white sail-cloth). In the back of kelir, it is light from electric lamp or oil lamp (blencong). People in the other side of kelir can watch the shadow of wayang.

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To understand the story of wayang kulit, people should have the knowledge about the characters which will have the role in wayang show. Usually, wayang show uses the characters from the story of Ramayana, Mahabharata, and sometimes Panji. However, it does not always use those kind of story in wayang, a puppeteer can plays the other character or change the characters, depends on the story that will be showed.

 

Wayang kulit is made from the buffalo skin which had made become a thin sheet. In each character wayang needs about 50 x 30 cm of buffalo skin sheet, and then it is carved with sharp pointed iron which has a good quality. This tool is made first with different shape and size, such as pointed, flat, short, and the others to be appropriated with the making of wayang; each of them has different function. After it is carved, the skin is holed in some places. Then, the other body parts like two hands, arms, legs, and others are set it in. The method to tack it is by using small screws which is made from the cow or buffalo horns. The thin shaft which is used for the body movement is also made from cow or buffalo horns. Gold color in wayang character is from gold leaf which is glued there or by painting in gold color which is made from liquefying gold powder. However, wayang kulit which is used gold leaf in the coloration is better than gold powder because the color is not easy to fade and long lasting.


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