Dwi Puspita, 33, starts her day long before dawn, preparing breakfast for her husband Sofian and daughter Davina, while attending to the needs of her 3-year-old son, Bajra.
As the sun rises, she sets off for SMAN 7 senior high school in Purworejo regency, Central Java, where she teaches Javanese language and music.
Puspita, who lives in Bruno village about 30 kilometers northwest of Purworejo, is more than a mother and a teacher: she is also the only female dalang (puppet master) in the area.
Puspita grew up watching her father Priyo Widodo, a celebrated dalang, as he performed wayang kulit (shadow puppet) shows.
"I was inspired by watching my father perform,” said Puspita, whose eyes and ears were trained through constant exposure to her father’s performances.
After learning the ropes under her father, Puspita honed her skills at a dalang school in Yogyakarta.
Wayang kulit is a traditional Javanese puppet theater that generally tells stories from Javanese mythology as well as the ancient Sanksrit epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. In 2003,
UNESCO proclaimed wayang kulit as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
A typical wayang kulit performance runs eight hours from midnight to dawn.
The dalang fills multiple roles in directing a wayang kulit performance, from puppeteer to narrator and to the conductor of the gamelan orchestra, which comprises musicians and vocalists. It remains a male-dominated field in which female dalang are rarely found, even today. [yps]