Wayang kulit - ethnic carving shadow puppet

Wayang theatre is considered to be a highlight of Javanese culture. Over the centuries its religious character has increasingly developed into a distinct art form; foreign influences introduced new stories, characters were added, and new refined styles were developed at the courts.

There are various types of wayang, but, in Java, the most important is the wayang purwa, which uses kulit (flat cut-outs of painted leather puppets) whose shadows are projected on a large white screen. Wayang purwa makes use of the purwa repertoire: the oldest stories about cosmic events and divine will are represented; the course of events is seen as being predestined, part of a cosmic law.

The Javanese word purwa means ‘beginning’ or ‘first’ and derives, probably, from the Sanskrit parwan, a word used to denote the chapter of the Mahabharata.

The making of shadow puppets is a long and painstaking process. Skin of a female buffalo of about four years of age, the ideal type for texture and strength, is dried, scraped and cured for up to ten years to achieve stiffness and eliminate warping and splitting.

On maturity, skin are carved and pierced to fashion the required character. This technique involves extensive knowledge of iconography and physiognomy, since all lines – angles of the head, slant of the eyes and mouth, profile of the body – are specific to the the character.

When carving is completed, the traditional pigments including powdered burnt bone for white, lampblack, indigo, yellow ochre and cinnabar for red in a gelatinous medium mixed from dried egg-white. Gold leaf and pigment are applied in a medium of protein glue derived from fish bones.

The cempurit, or manipulating rods, are made of buffalo horn, while the studs attaching the jointed arms to the torso are of metal (sometimes gold), bone, bamboo or, in rare courtly examples, gold studded with diamond.

Source : www.semarweb.com