“Wayang” means shadow or wooden puppet performance. The performance is usually accompanied by Javanese gamelan. There are many kinds of wayang not only in Java but also in several areas outside the island such as Bali.
Wayang klitik is one of them. Wayang klitik are similar to wayang kulit (shadow puppets) but instead of being made from leather, they are made from thin wood and are used the same way as shadow puppets. Their sizes are also the same as shadow puppets.
Unfortunately, wood is prone to more damage than leather. When the puppeteer performed a battle scene, the wayang klitik were often damaged, although the such scenes definitely amazed the audience. But in the 1970s, broken puppets meant the puppeteer needed to make new puppets, which was very expensive.
For this reason, wayang klitik figures are now made using leather for the arms so that battle scenes can be performed without the puppeteer needing to worry that they will be severely damaged. The sound “klitik-klitik” when they are moved by the puppet master resulted in the puppets being called onomatopoeic.
Wayang klitik originally came from the eastern part of Java and the stories involved plays from the ancient Jenggala, Kediri and Majapahit kingdoms, which were located in the area. From the Jenggala and Kediri era, there are stories of Raden Panji and Cindelaras that tell of the adventures of villagers who loved cock-fighting. Meanwhile, during the Majapahit era, there is the Damarwulan story, which tells of the struggles between the Majapahit and Blambangan kingdoms, in which Damarwulan gains honor.
There were about 50 wayang klitik artists in the 1970s in Gumampir village, Karangnongko, Klaten regency, Central Java. The puppets brought fame to the village as the center of the wayang klitik industry and local craftsmen relied it for a living. Unfortunately, due to a sluggish market only a few artists have survived.
For Khotib Febi Mistar, a 32-year-old villager, the condition is a challenge for him to rebuild the industry. He has created "Wayang Dakwah Islami" (Islamic preaching puppets) as an innovation to enliven the story in Wayang Klitik. Khotib, who learned his skills from his father, also produced Wali Songo figures. Wali Songo were nine revered Muslim leaders in Java. The story of Wali Songo's journey when introducing Islam in Java has become the main story of Wayang Dakwah Islami.