The Shadow World (Bali shadow puppet performance)

Bali Information - The Wayang Kulit shadow play is a dramatic world in itself. Described as "society's teacher", the play is essential to Balinese education since its enormous repertoire of episodes covers all aspects of life, and shows, in silhouettes, the exemplary actions of mankind. Wayang Kulit was popular at the court of King Airlangga of East Java in the 11 th century, though it is mentioned in a Balinese inscription more than a century before that. Because of the genre's great antiquity and role, too, as a spiritual guide to the people, the shadow play is magically powerful to a high degree and is most frequently performed during religious occasions.

The dalang, the mystic storyteller of Wayang Kulit, is the true hero of the shadow theatre.His talents are far more encompassing than those of a puppeteer in the Western sense. Asidefrom directing the drama, he must have exceptional physical endurance to remain seated,continuously chanting for a time span up to six hours. He is both the conductor of the Gender Wayang orchestra (the ensemble of four xylophones which accompanies the play) and an experienced musician able to play each instrument he leads. He is a scholar of literature who has spent long years mastering the difficult Kawi language. He is an orator with a prodigious memory, enabling him to sing, in dozens of different poetical measures, episodes from the long Kawi versions of the Ramayana and Mahabharata, and occasionally from other stories as well. He is also an ordained priest possessing powers to ward off evil influences, make offerings, protect and s-    bless the people. This role is prominent in the daytime Wayang when the screen is replaced by a thread tied between branches of the holy dapdap tree. And he is a philosopher who presents a moral truth: good ultimately triumphs and evil meets its ruin. At night the screen is lit by a primitive oil lamp. (Fire is always used because the flickering effect of the torch enhances the motion the puppets.) To either side of the dalang his assistants who hand him the puppets during the performance. As is the custom, the dalang, begins by thrice striking the wooden box containing the puppets, in order to "wake the up". He then hands each puppet to his assistants who put them in their proper place sticking their supports in the soft trunk of the banana tree at the foot of the screen.

The Wayang Kulit stage is a symbolic mici… cosm representing a spiritual world. The screen denotes the sky; the banana trunk, the earth; the lamp, the sun; the puppists, human beings; and the dalang, the deity that conducts them. To the right of the dalang are puppets represe…ing good characters. Set to his left are the antagonists. To indicate the various episodes the story and to mark the beginning and end. Puppet in the shape of a leaf, which represents the tree of life, is placed in the center of the screen.When everything is ready and the offering. Have been made, the dalang begins to chart accenting the rhythm by tapping a horn he holds between his toes against the wooden box. This tapping also emphasizes the action and conducts the Gender Wayang orchestr, One by one, the puppets of the story are introduce; first, an unfocused shade on the screen then as finely delineated shadows puncture with small holes that define their identities  through appearance and dress. Like Arja, the characters of courtly stature speak in Kawi while the clowns interpret the story in Balinese AS usual; the clowns provide the most delightful entertainment. There are always four clowns in Wayang Kulit. Tualen and his son Mordah: are on the side of truth and righteousness. Delem and his sidekick Sangut are allies of the wicked. The clowns flash across the screen bobbing each other on the head, pushing and biting, and chasing one another. All the while they exchange crass insults in such rapid succession and with such authenticity that one, begins to wonder if the dalang isn't a ventriloquist as well.


Wayang Gallery

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