WATCH: The puppet master fanning the flames of traditional shadow theatre

WATCH: The puppet master fanning the flames of traditional shadow theatre
Copyright AMAR/
By Gregory WardPriyanka Mukherjee
Share this article
Share this articleClose Button
Copy/paste the article video embed link below:Copy to clipboardCopied

After watching his first-ever performance as a child, Ida Bagus Putera Baruna was mesmerised by Indonesia’s ancient Wayang theatre

ADVERTISEMENT

Putera tells SCENES that after sharing his enthusiasm with his family, his sister recommended that he pursue a puppeteer career when he grows up.

“That is the first time I heard that I had the ability to be a puppeteer,” Putera recalls.

Theatre is his passion, and he has dedicated over two decades to honing his skills in shadow puppetry.

Wayang theatre has been practised in Indonesia for generations and is said to have originated from the Island of Java. The puppets are intricately designed and are often made from leather, paper and wood.

The puppet-making process is labour-intensive, typically taking days to make one puppet. “One-centimetre square takes seven to ten minutes to make just the carving alone,” explains Putera.

Shadow puppet theatre productions are typically performed using a flame-lit screen
Shadow puppet theatre productions are typically performed using a flame-lit screenPriyanka Mukherjee

The performance typically occurs behind a flame-lit screen, with puppeteers operating the puppets while narrating stories. The plots span from informative tales to captivating local gossip.

The UNESCO-protected art form was widespread throughout the region before television became the norm.

“Shadow puppet shows were like the mass communications department. It explained things like family planning, architecture, and how to plant rice, and how to maintain it,” says Putera.

To preserve this fading art form and illuminate his cultural heritage, Putera has been making puppets and conducting workshops to teach the craft to theatre enthusiasts.

Share this article

You might also like