Wayang (Indonesian shadow puppets)

Continuing to recap a fantastic three weeks touring Indonesia with Greg Vanderbilt, a lecturer at the Center for Religious and Cross-Cultural Studies at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta.

Wayang is an Indonesian shadow puppet performance. Traditionally the show is accompanied by a gamelan orchestra with the dalang (puppet master) providing dialogue and narration for the figures he raises against the screen.

Many performances start in the evening and go all night, accompanied by food and other festivities. The most familiar stories are taken from the Hindu Ramayana and Mahabharata, but in this case, we watched wayang wahyu, Christian wayang, in celebration of the anniversary of a Catholic seminary in Yogyakarta.

Interestingly, all the seats were placed facing the “back” of the screen because it’s so popular to watch the dalang at work. This was perfect for me—I spent the first act wandering back and forth between the “right” side (where a few traditionalists were standing) and the “backstage” side (where everyone else was).