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Art-Pacific (Carolyn Leigh - Ron Perry): Guide to Artifacts

Wayang Golek and Wayang Klitik

[2 male rod puppets. One has a fierce, bright red face. The other wears a bright flowered shirt: 24k]

Wayang golek rod puppets are created in family workshops. The master carver makes the head because it expresses the personality of the character. There are ceremonies before carving strong puppets like gods or demons.

The head is roughed out from soft wood with a saw or adz. Then the details are chiseled in. Younger family members do the bodies. The articulated arms are hinged with rattan, string or metal fastenings. The central support rod is attached to the base of the body where it is hidden by the clothing. The women make all the costumes.

Figure 1: Wayang golek puppets, probably from the Menak cycle of adventures of Muhammad's uncle. Their sarongs are wrapped tightly around the rods for storage between performances.

[Black wayang klitik puppet with some white color detail on the sarong and headdress : 10k]

Wayang klitik puppets are flat wooden puppets carved in low relief and painted. They have leather arms like the wayang kulit puppets. They are occasionally used in daytime performances without a screen for plays from the Wayang Gedog cycle. They are also carved for sale using characters from the Hindu epics.

Figure 2: This large wayang klitik puppet is an aggressive character with the kasar trait of a big nose.

Wayang golek and wayang klitik wooden puppets are heavier than leather shadow puppets and more difficult for the dalang to carry, so there are only about 65 to 70 puppets in a set. Puppets play more than one character in these smaller sets, but they must match the type. The dalang's role is the same and the stage is similar, but without the screen.

[2 aristocratic female rod puppets in traditional dress and hairdos: 26k]

If the story is one of the Hindu classics, the wooden puppets follow the stylized characteristics of the shadow puppets. If the stories are from one of the Javanese cycles, the puppets have everyday traditional Javanese form, hair styles and dress with lots of detail and bright colors.

Figure 3: Wayang golek puppets dressed in silk blouses and scarves, cotton batik skirts, necklaces of glass beads, seeds and tassels, metal bracelets and other jewelry set with paste gems. A dealer in Solo had old puppets from a more refined set whose fingers were exquisitely carved in classic Javanese gestures.

Only Java uses wooden puppets, but different areas of the island have different styles. They are believed to have originated on the north coast. Sometimes a wayang golek puppet called a tayub or gambyong, dances at dawn at the end of a wayang kulit performance to remind the viewers to consider the message of play.

Rod puppets are produced for plays, for tourists, and for wealthy Javanese collectors who use them only for display. These collector puppets represent characters that the family identifies with or that were perhaps favorites from childhood.

Next: The Puppet Master and the Play | Indonesian Puppets | Wayang Kulit | Wayang Cycles

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Artifacts on this site are collected in the field by my husband, Ron Perry. I take the photographs, do the html, text and maps. More background in Who We Are. Art-Pacific has been on the WWW since 1996. We hope you enjoy our New Guinea tribal art and Indonesian folk art as much as we do. Carolyn Leigh, P.O. Box 85284, Tucson, AZ 85754-5284 USA, Art-Pacific at http://www.art-pacific.com/