Dieny & Yusuf

Wayang Golek

Posted on: March 3, 2007

While the famous Javanese puppet play wayang kulit utilizes shadow, the Sundanese wayang golek is a play with three-dimensional puppets. The puppets have wooden heads fixed on sticks which pass through the body and on which the whole puppets is either held in the hand or stuck into a banana trunk when not in play. The arms are jointed and can be moved with separate small rods. The variety of movements that a skilled puppet player can have his puppets perform is quite astounding.

            The wayang golek is found in Central Java, it is more prevalent in West Java, blending entertainment with religious and philosophical overtones. Like wayang kulit, most plots of Indian Ramayana epos; only very few use stories of local origin. The struggle between good and evil is depicted in a number of characters, each reflecting a personality eyes, color of face, nose, hairdo, and shape of headdress. Puppets depicting good characters feature slender, pointed noses and slanted eyes that always politely look downs; they delicate, graceful movements, and tend to use mind over muscle in fighting. Evil characters, on the other hand fierce movements. Providing slapstick and commentary are the clowns. One ognizable character Cepot, a cigarette often drooping from his mouth. As in Javanese puppet play, it is the puppeteer (dalang) who handles all the puppets an provides the narration and the dialogue with all the various voices. Through rhythmic and verbal clues he also directs the gamelan music players placed behind him backstage.

            Wayang golek is often played as part of outdoor live entertainment for weddings, births, and circumcision ceremonies. It also performed publicly every Saturday night from 9 p.m. until 12 midnight in the Sindang Reret restaurant at Jl. Naripan No. 7, just off Jl. Braga; admission is free for dinners. Other performances are held on the first and  third Saturday nights of each month in the Rumentang Siang cultural center, off Jl. A. Yani, right next to the Kosambi shopping center (admission $0.50). These plays last until the early morning and are performed in the Sundanese language, making it a very local affair. Other morning once a month at the zoo (Telp: -22-2502770).

            Wayang golek puppets are a much sought-after souvenir and come in various sizes (see “Bandung Practicalities”). Sarinah, on Jl. Braga, has a nice collection, each puppet being labeled with the name and main features of the character it represents.

            Workshops where you can watch the carving of such puppets-and of course, buy them-are at Jl. ABC.

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