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The Fabricated World

Dance and Drama

Shadow Puppet Zoomify

The important stories of a people are often expressed through performance, whether in dance, song, play or dramatization. The performance method of storytelling (especially in preliterate or non-literate societies) is how core beliefs and values are preserved within a community. There is as much variety in presentation as there are different human cultures on earth, but every means of expression shares the desire to communicate meaningful messages by way of spectacle.

About the Object

Object name: Shadow Puppet (wayang kulit)
Place made: Java
Date made: 1950-2000
Dimensions: 36 x 45 cm
Materials & Techniques: Papier maché, painted, wood
Credit line: Gift of the Volunteer Committee of the Textile Museum of Canada
ID: TS2006.18.1

This puppet is used in the famous Javanese shadow puppet theatre called wayang kulit (literally, shadow skins). The figure is male and wears a kain, the traditional wrapped garment of Indonesia. His finery and elegant features suggest he is a noble character in the multitudinous wayang cast.

Alternative Views

Back

Back

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Second Look

Microscopic Views

Macroscopic Views

Image title: Microscopic Views
Description: A microscopic view at 5x magnification
Credit: Macrography Courtesy of Sandra Webster-Cook of the AGO

Microscopic Views

Microscopic Views


Description: A microscopic view at 12.5x magnification
Credit: Macrography Courtesy of Sandra Webster-Cook of the AGO

Microscopic Views

Microscopic Views


Description: A microscopic view at 20x magnification
Credit: Macrography Courtesy of Sandra Webster-Cook of the AGO

Macro

Macro

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Touchpoint View

Animation

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Image

Making of shadow puppet theatre

Shadow puppets are constructed of buffalo hide that has been punched with tiny holes, and then painted and decorated with pigments and gold leaf. Sharpened sticks of buffalo horn are affixed to the arms to control movement, and a sharpened handle runs through the centre of the puppet so it can be attached to a log when not in use. Performances take place in front of a white cotton screen with a light source illuminating the action. A lone puppeteer called a dalang plays all the parts. Audiences can view the performance from either side of the screen; if they are behind it, they see only the shadows of the puppets.

Javanese Shadow Puppet Theatre

Making of shadow puppet theatre

Image title: Javanese Shadow Puppet Theatre
Credit: Image Courtesy of Tim Mowrer

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Artifact Narrative

Meaning of shadow puppets

The most popular shadow plays of the past 10 centuries are dramatized episodes in the lives of the five Pandawa brothers – Java’s oldest mythological heroes. The stories are adaptations of the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, which arrived in Java and Bali with invading Indians, who ruled Indonesia until they were usurped by Islamic invaders in the 15th century. The characters come from a roster that includes hundreds of human, god and ogre types differentiated by the shapes of their eyes and other attributes. Shadow plays are performed all over Java at festivals, weddings and circumcisions. In neighbouring Bali, they are also staged at cremations.

Puppet

Shadow puppet

Place made: Java
Date made: 1970-1990
Dimensions: 46 x 30 cm
Materials & Techniques: Skin, cut and punched
Credits: Gift of Ken Melamed in honour of Lainie Melamed
ID: TS04.12.49

Video

Shadow Puppet Theatre

Watch a video of Indonesian shadow puppetry.

Credit: Video Produced by Goodyear Rubber and Tire Company Incorporated, Motion Picture Division.

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Collection Connections

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Rod puppets

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ID*: TS2006.28.1-3

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ID*: T84.0162

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ID*: T94.0591