Rod puppets from Java

Javanese rod puppet, mid to late 20th Century
Javanese rod puppet, mid to late 20th Century

The show takes place outside, blocking the street for most of the evening. As he manipulates the figures, the puppeteer’s head is in full view of the audience. He introduces the story and announces the puppets as they appear on stage. Good characters approach from the right, bad ones from the left. Each character has its unique voice and way of moving.

Javanese rod puppets as a theme in Performance Gallery

Performance was developed at Brighton Museum in response to the excellent collections which relate to performance. The gallery opened in 2002 and an installation of puppets from Java is featured as one of seven puppet traditions from around the world.

The display:

Indonesian rod and shadow puppets share a case. To the left, shadow puppets are displayed to highlight their strong silhouette. Unlike in shadow puppet performance, a detailed close-up inspection is possible, showing the exquisite painting of the puppets. To the side, a set of figures is ranked, as they would be for performance, ready for the puppeteer to transfer to the next scene.

Rod puppet
Rod puppet

The gallery label reads:

Rod puppet performances often celebrate special occasions. The show takes place outside, blocking the street for most of the evening.

Before the show, the puppeteer prays and makes offerings to the gods so that they might bless the stage and the puppets.

References

R Simmen, The World of Puppets, 1972
A Djajasoebatta, Shadow theatre in Java. The puppets, performance and repertoire, 1999
Asian Puppets. Wall of the World (exhibition catalogue for UCLA Museum of Cultural History, 1976)
P Buurman, Wayang Golek. The entrancing world of classical West Javanese puppet theatre, 1991
A Richter, Arts and Crafts of Indonesia, 1993

Leave a Reply