WAYANG kulit or shadow puppet is a traditional theater that has filled the need for entertainment of Balinese people from time immemorial. Made from cow’s leather, the carved pieces of wayang figures are ready to entertain and generate fresh jokes for spectators.
Indeed, shadow puppet has become an integrated part of Balinese life and culture. Amidst its mission to entertain people, it also brings moral messages becoming the significant guidance in their life. The most famous storylines recounted are the sequel of Ramayana and Mahabharata epics. The languages in use are Balinese and Old Javanese interchangeably. Conversation of royal family speaks Old Javanese and it is interpreted by royal servants into Balinese vernacular.
Other than for entertainment, this shadow puppet also plays the role for exorcism rite or complement of a ritual. According to local belief, baby who was born in the week (wuku) of Wayang it will need an exorcism rite one day.
The shadow puppet having this function is called wayang lemah because it is commonly held at noon (lemah—Balinese). It does not utilize any screen and oil lamp. Instead it utilizes a bundle of yarn spread as the screen tied onto the erythrina twig at each end. Then, the puppet set is put in front of the yarn by stabbed them on banana trunk.
This performance is supported by 3-5 artists consisting of a puppeteer and around two pairs of gender gamelan players. As focused on the function as complement of ritual, it may take place for around one to two hours. Uniquely, it does not need special stage to perform the show. It just needs a simple place set near the venue of ritual.
Organizing a shadow puppet alone can be expensive. So, when people cannot afford the wayang lemah, they have an alternative by organizing it collectively or just invoke the holy water of the puppet shadow.