March 08, 2016

Wayang Kulit is among the greatest story-telling traditions in the world. Close to the heart of Java, wayang kulit are shadow puppets. Revered throughour the nation, wayang is considered to be one of the highest forms of art in Indonesia. Using wayang, traditional classical stories are told by skilled puppet masters, accompanied by a traditional gamelan orchestra, dramatic lighting and unique voices. Usually told with a twist of sarcastic humor to entertain the audience, people also seek for the moral and philosophical themes encoded within the stories.


To make wayang kulit takes a lot of skill, patience and incredible detail. The art of making wayang kulit is usually passed down by family members, almost like a precious heirloom. However, today, there are a few studios that are more than willing to teach tourists or visitors to create their own wayang.


Wayang kulit are made from water buffalo hide, cut and punctured by hand, one hole at a time. There are usually several artists and they each have their own stations. The first artist carves and punctures the hide and begins to scratch the outline of the figure. This step is very important to showcase the character correctky and is usually guided by a sketch. To make the outline, the artist uses a tatah, a mallet-like tool used to punch holes through the hide.


The next artist paints the wayang using water-based paints. The wayang is colored with extremely fine details and is often finished with a brush of gold or bronze leaf. The next step is to attach the wayang to sticks that also act as the wayang’s limbs. The sticks are made from wood or water buffalo horn and allow wayang to move swiftly and fluently. For a large character, this whole process may take five months or more to complete.