Wayang kulit is a traditional Leather puppet-shadow play found in the culture of Javanese, Indonesia. In a wayang kulit performance, the puppet figures are rear-projected on a taut linen screen with a coconut-oil (or electric) light. The Dalang (Puppeteer) manipulates carved leather figures between the lamp and the screen to bring the shadows to life.
The stage of a wayang performance includes several components. A stretched linen canvas (kelir) acted as a canvas, dividing the dalang (puppeteer) and the spectator. A coconut-oil lamp (Javanese blencong or Balinese damar) – which in modern time usually replaced with electric light – casts shadow onto the screen. A banana trunk lies on the ground between the screen and the dalang, where the figures are stick to hold them in place.
The Puppeteer in a complete dress
The musicians sit behind the dalang in a gamelan orchestra setting, an integral part of the Javanese wayang kulit performance.
Part of the music orchestra
The performance is also accompanied with female singers (pesinden) and male singers (wirasuara).
A traditional wayang kulit performance begins after dark. The first of the three phases, in which the characters are introduced and the conflict is launched, lasts until midnight. The battles and intrigues of the second phase are about three hours. The third phase of reconciliation and friendship is finished at dawn. Wikipedia
The female singers in their traditional costums
THE GREATEST STORYTELLING TRADITION. Wonderful Indonesia
Although the audience watches the story unfold in shadows of figures thrown from behind the screen, the characters of the play are not mere puppets, but are in fact crafted of very finely cut and carved untanned leather which are then beautifully painted over. For this reason, in Indonesia, the performance is called Wayang Kulit, or the Wayang Leather puppet performance, to distinguish it from other forms of wayang puppets that may be made of wood, for example.
Wayang stories are usually taken from episodes of the Hindu classic sagas of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. These stories are not only entertaining but, moreover, teach lofty values and contain deep philosophical thoughts. Accompanied by the remarkable live music of the Javanese gamelan percussion orchestra, Wayang Kulit performances are always present during folk festivities and significant events such at births, weddings, or other celebrations, and lasts the whole night. The particular story presented and messages conveyed are usually relevant to the event.
The Dalang in action
Wayang stories involve moral and ethical dilemmas faced by the characters in their journey through life, love, and war. The stories are about good versus evil, but more than that, they contemplate the existential struggle between right and wrong. They are about the pursuit of living a virtuous, noble life and the search for meaning in life.
The Wayang-themed activities encourage further exploration of moral life goals, integrity, sense of responsibility, perseverance and care for others. For example, making wayang puppets (menatah) would require patience and motivation to do better, and improve oneself. Playing the puppets (mendalang) also tells a moral story that intends to enlighten as well as entertain. Wonderful Indonesia