Wayang Kulit- a star attraction at Jaffna International Trade Fair


by Zacki Jabbar in Jaffna

The third edition of the Jaffna International Trade Fair ,held at the Durayappah Stadium recently,featured an exhilarating performance of Wayang Kulit,the ancient Indonesian art of shadow play.

The Indonesian Charge d’ Affaires, Albert Abdi told "The Island", that he was happy to have staged Wayang Kulit, for the benefit of visitors to JITF 2012 and was pleased with their appreciative response.

"Amidst the entertainment, we also showcased Indonesian furniture,tyres, auto parts,clothes and traditional food",he said adding that visitors were provided with brochures containing important information for tourists and the online visa procedure.

The ancient Indonesian art of puppetry or Wayang Kulit, was a unique combination of ritual and entertainment. Lacy shadow images are projected on a taught linen screen with a coconut oil lamp or electric light. The Dalang, or shadow artist manipulates carved leather figures between the lamp and the screen to bring the shadows to life.

The shadow puppet theater was found in several countries around the world,but Indonesia is the place where the tradition was still the most popular and lively, particularly in the islands of Bali and the central region of Java, the Charge d’ Affaires observed.

The Wayang Kulit, made of buffalo leather are manipulated behind a white screen with a back light, so the attendance can see them as shadow puppets.

The characters include kings, princes, teachers, giants, demons, and citizens. The characters with narrow eyes are refined and elegant. Those with wide eyes are more down to earth. Most characters speak in the language of Kawi- inspiration, or Jawa Kuno - ancient Javanese ,while translators impart details of the story in the vernacular language. They also inject their own insights and sense of humor.

Some favorites include Kala Rau - the eclipse of the moon, Calonarang - a call to witches, and Panji -Javanese folk tales. The Dalang, chooses a story appropriate to the village or venue sponsoring the performance. This choice is made to illustrate a useful moral. Upon arriving to perform, the Dalang asks about current local events and uses the story to illustrate solutions.

Shadow Play, is accompanied by a Gamelan orchestra. Many styles of Gamelan instruments exist throughout Indonesia. Each area has a slightly different approach to accompaniment, though most share the same root traditions. Gamelan players respond to the spontaneous timing and direction of the Dalang. The repertoire typically consists of an overture, music for travelling, character pieces, and battle music.

Wayang, in modern Indonesian language, is loosely translated to mean puppet. Kulit means skin or leather, the material from which the figures are carved. The Indonesian word for shadow, bayang, is clearly related and some would call it the origin of the word. But, Wayang is not always in shadow. In the old languages, the term Wayang reportedly originates from two earlier words: Waya- ancestors descending and Ang - a symbol.

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