Bali Wayang, the Puppet Theater

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Wayang means traditional puppet. It is spread over most of Indonesia as a theater show since a long time ago. Based on old manuscripts in Bali, Wayang has been performed around the ninth century. This puppet is mostly performed to entertain, but some Wayang are only performed in ritual ceremonies. Balinese Wayang can be divided into two types; Wayang Kulit and Wayang Wong.

Traditional theater in Bali - Wayang

Wayang Kulit

Wayang Kulit is made from stiffly tanned hide mounted on handles of horn or bone, each cut out in its characteristic shape and pierced with a fine lace-like pattern that allows the lamplight to reveal details of face and dress. The arms joined at the shoulders are manipulated with great expressiveness. Wayang Kulit movements are controlled by a puppeteer called Dalang. It is usually accompanied by traditional music instruments called Gender Wayang.

Based on the show time, there are two types of Wayang Kulit; namely Wayang Peteng and Wayang Lemah.

Wayang Peteng is performed in the evening only for entertaining. It is also known as a shadow theater. Wayang Peteng is performed behind a white flat screen (made from stretched cloth) which is lighted by a traditional hanging oil lamp. The Dalang (puppeteer) manipulates all the Wayang movements and also Wayang voices behind the screen. A Dalang must have ability to change their voice depending on which Wayang character, so the conversations among the characters look real. Wayang Peteng viewers watch the show in front of the screen. Though viewers can only see the shadows of puppets (the puppeteer not visible through the screen), it does not decrease the interesting aspect of the show. Wayang Peteng usually takes local stories, such as children stories, comedy, or even social-politics and bringing in many moral messages. Therefore, this puppet theater is often used as a traditional educational media.

Another type of Wayang Kulit is Wayang Lemah. Unlike Wayang Peteng which is performed in the evening, Wayang Lemah is performed in the morning or afternoon. Wayang Lemah can be categorized as a sacred show, because it is only performed in big ceremonies and tells stories about God or histories of a ritual. In Wayang Lemah it is not too different than Wayang Peteng, both having movements and voices handled by a Dalang (puppeteer) and accompanied by Gender Wayang (traditional music instrument), but in Wayang Lemah it is performed without a screen. The viewers can see the puppets and Dalang clearly. This show is believed to be able to protect a ceremony celebration from evil influences.

Wayang Wong

The name of Wayang Wong is taken from words Wayang and Wong. The word Wayang means puppet and Wong means human, so Wayang Wong means humans portraying as puppets. Wayang Wong looks like a Mask Dance. The dancers use masks which reflect characters in its story. In this dance, there are conversations among the characters. The difference between Mask Dance and Wayang Wong is about the story told. Unlike Mask Dance which mostly takes a story about history of a ceremony, Wayang Wong takes it story from the Babad just like Wayang Kulit. It also takes stories from the Ramayana and Mahabarata. Wayang Wong is rarely performed because it can only be performed by special dancers. The dancers are chosen by local priests through a ritual. The famous villages which perform Wayang Wong regularly are Tejakula (district of Singaraja), Sukawati & Mas (district of Gianayar), Marga (district of Tabanan), and Bualu (Badung).

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