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World Wayang Day celebrated in Surakarta

Ganug Nugroho Adi

The Jakarta Post

Surakarta, Central Java  /  Fri, November 9, 2018  /  05:34 pm
World Wayang Day celebrated in Surakarta

Not only adult puppeteers, a number of children puppeteers also participated in World Wayang Day celebrations. (JP/Ganug Nugroho Adi)

A wayang beber (beber shadow puppet) master from Pacitan, Ki Supani Gunodharmo, sat cross-legged with a piece of paper scribbled with illustrations of a puppet story laid out in front of him. Behind the wayang master was a group of wiyaga (musical accompaniment), each playing an instrument, among others a fiddle, xylophone and gong, in unison playing rhythmic Javanese music.

Using a wooden stick, Ki Supani began to tell puppet stories according to the pictures on paper. That night, Ki Supani told the tales of Panji Joko Kembang Kuning, a play about Joko Kembang who is searching for the missing Dewi Sekartaji, Prabu Brawijaya's daughter.

In the Central Java region, wayang beber is rarely performed compared to other shadow puppets, mainly due to dwindling numbers of wayang beber puppet masters. The rare show drew large crowds to witness the performance.

Ki Supani is one of dozens of masterminds who performed shadow puppet shows at the Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) in Surakarta, Central Java on Nov. 6-9 to celebrate World Wayang Day. In addition to Ki Supani, other puppeteers included performers from Yogyakarta, Bandung, Tegal, Kebumen, Hungary and Japan.

Under the theme "Gebyar Wayat Jagat Mendalang", a dance at the Pendapa Ageng GPH Joyokusumo by veteran dancer Wahyu Santosa Prabowo, along with dozens of ISI Surakarta students marked the beginning of the four-day event. Earlier, puppeteer Ki Manteb Soedharsono also held a ruwatan (purification ceremony) and performed the Murwakala puppet show.

Read also: ‘Wayang suket’, an almost extinct children's toy

Thirty-eight puppeteers from various cities appeared in performances at the festival, with the stage filled by various wayang shows, including wayang beber, wayang golek, wayang krucil, wayang wahyu, a number of new puppet creations such as wayang with dolls and collaborations between wayang kulit, wayang orang and dances.

A performance also entered the Indonesian Museum of Records (MURI), which featured a shadow puppet show on a 135-meter screen by puppet master Ki KPAA Suro Agul Begug Purnomosidi, who is also a former regent of Wonogiri.

Not only adult puppeteers, a number of children puppeteers also participated in the World Wayang Day celebrations, performing in a collaboration of wayang kulit, wayang orang and wayang golek with theater performances.

"This is very extraordinary. I was touched because in modern times, the enthusiasm of people toward wayang remains great. Not only the performance, but also the audience," Ki Manteb said on the sidelines of the opening ceremony.

ISI Surakarta rector Guntur said wayang should not only be understood as an artistic and aesthetic phenomenon but also social and cultural. The beauty of wayang is that it involves other elements of art, such as dance, theater and culture, he added.

"All wayang kulit, from the Surakarta, Yogyakarta, Banyumas, East Java and other styles appear in this performance. There are 30 shows to be accommodated by this event," Guntur said when opening the performance.

Guntur added that World Wayang Day was an event to commemorate the establishment of wayang's recognition in 2003 as a UNESCO Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. For ISI Surakarta, he said, this annual celebration is an opportunity for learning, as well as a performance of art, especially wayang. (liz/mut)