“To do what Antonio has done is an enormous show of respect to Balinese heritage. He studied with a Dalang for six months, rehearsing and learning the ancient craft.”
Wayan kulit is a traditional Balinese art form that could simplistically be described as a shadow puppet show, but it is in fact much more than that. It is a cultural staple, a source of Balinese identity, of laughter, of tradition, of wisdom, of maintaining continuity with the past and unity within a village.
The dalang, the master puppeteer, sits behind a screen with a light behind him, creating shadows with the puppets he moves. He acts out all the voices and by himself creates a play for hours of entertainment.
Throughout the countryside, performances are held in rice fields for the whole village to congregate and watch. The men will sit together and drink beer and talk – even during the performance – because they have seen the same performances over and over since their childhoods.
A few months ago on my street, to celebrate the birth of a child, traffic was closed off and the main entertainment was a wayan kulit.
When I heard a Spaniard was going to perform one, I had to be there to document it.
Antonio taught me that there are a few basic rules to follow when performing a wayan kulit.
right hand = left screen are good guys
left hand = right screen are bad guys
Arjuna, the master speaks only in Kawi, an old javanese lost language. Generally, the servants speak Balinese, in this case they speak English.
The story is actually more about Twalen, Arjuna’s loyal servant and Merdah, Twalen’s son.
Performances are focused around chapters from the Mahabaratta, the holy book of Hindus, but there is some room for the dalang to improvise and incorporate aspects of contemporary culture.
With Antonio’s background in graphic design, he added projections to set the scenes in addition to the puppets.
Live music was composed and performed by ‘The Ugly Ensemble’
Adam Felton – Cajon
Cepi Kusmiadi – Percussion
Jarrod Ross – Bass
Asher Yaron – Trumpet & didjeridoo
Enjoy what is, as far as I know, the only documented English wayan kulit to date. Again, huge respect to Antonio for his efforts and homage to a traditional Balinese art form. His performance was incredible and I am so glad I was there to experience it.