29 March 2012

Wayang beber

Wayang can mean either theater or puppet and during our three stays in Indonesia, we've become familiar with (and own examples of) three puppet types: light-and-shadow wayang kulit, crafted from water buffalo hide; 3-D wooden wayang golek; and flat wooden wayang klitik, also shadow puppets. According to Wikipedia, wood is less durable than leather in battle scenes; wayang klitik are sometimes made with leather arms to minimize the damage.

What I had never encountered until I went with Dameria and Setiawati to see a reconstructed teak house transported from Kudus, a town in central Java (I've posted on Kudus before here and here), is wayang beber. This tradition is also fronted by a dalang, or storyteller, accompanied by gamelan music — and, in its modern incarnation, guitars — but no puppets are involved. Instead a scroll is unwound to tell the story, and a few fragile examples of this dying craft remain in museums, with two more owned by families in Pacitan and Wonogiri, villages in central Java. A special exhibition in the extension to the house featured the creations of a consortium of young artists, Wayang Beber Metropolitan, devoted to resurrecting the art form. They can work in the traditional style, but have also developed a modern version with contemporary cartoon-like characters.

Here are my companions for the day — Dameria, organizer-in-chief; Setiawati, her friend from church; and Setiawati's 7-year-old son, Padma:

 Setiawati is very interested in the traditional-style painting on the right.
A closer view of Padma's wayang beber T-shirt. I bought the same design — rather larger size — for Iain and Kate.

A few installations showing what the set-up would be for a theatrical presentation.

Detail from middle scroll.
Zeroing in on third scroll.
Sketch of performance, with dalang, gamelan, and guitars.

A vivid contemporary scroll, with close-ups of characters.

Beber images on glass, both classical and grotesque.

 Detail from glass painting above.


Before continuing with images, I'll include photos of three of the talented wayang beber enthusiasts. I hope that someday a studio picks up their work for television and film animations.

Hari Abri Yanto (nickname Okky)


Surahman, at 29 the eldest of the three. If I understood correctly, it was he who used his collection of Snowman pens to create the black-and-white sketches that follow.


 T-shirts, for display not sale.

Traditional style.



In terms of graphic design, this is one of my absolute favorites.
Children were invited to contribute.

Last, for my two or three Indonesian readers, here's the first part of an explanatory panel.

Postscript. A very nice reply from the Wayang Beber Metropolitan Community. I sent them a link to this post.

Your Welcome dear Carol Welland..
Thank you also for having appreciated our exhibition and we are very glad to know that you enjoy and love our exhibition...
we have passed your link not only to Okky, Surahman and tomy but also to our group..
thanks a lot.. and we like your writing in you blog..

We pleased to meet with you

Wayang Beber Metropolitan Community