Wayang Kulit (Shadow Puppets)
Wayung Kulit © Arian Zwegers
Shadow Puppet performances are a proud part of Indonesia's cultural heritage. In fact, UNESCO has declared wayang kulit a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, which means that the art form is considered a global treasure. The puppets are lovingly handcrafted out of buffalo hide or goat skin, and mounted on bamboo poles, with moveable limbs that are worked by a highly skilled puppeteer from behind a backlit screen, casting the shadows of the puppets onto the surface to tell spellbinding stories.
The puppeteer is usually the creator of the puppets, the director, producer and main narrator of the shadow world. The masters of wayang kulit are called dalangs and these talented artists are known to perform through the night at times. The stories have their origins in classic Hindu mythologies and Ramayana tales and are narrated in the local dialects. Although shadow puppet shows in English are not unheard of it is unlikely that you'll find one. However, don't be discouraged by the language barrier, as even without understandable words the puppets express themselves eloquently through movement and action and the effect is amazing. Watching the story unfold narrated in a local dialect is arguably far more interesting and authentic. Catching one of these unique shows is a wonderful addition to an Indonesian holiday.