Entertainment Balinese Style
Visitors to the island of Bali will find that there is plenty to keep them entertained. The main tourist areas offer some great facilities and there is no need to miss out on any of the home comforts that people are used to. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, internet cafes, and nightclubs. With all these attractions it is easy to miss out on some of the more traditional forms of entertainment in Bali. One example of what visitors might be missing is shadow puppets.
Shadow Puppets Explained
Shadow puppetry involves using flat articulated figures, known as shadow puppets, to tell stories and just generally entertain. This form of amusement is associated with a number of different countries including Nepal, India, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, among others.
Shadow Puppets in Bali
Shadow puppetry is known as Wayang kulit in Bali. The word waylang comes from Java and it means shadow. This form of theatre is believed to have arrived on the island sometime around the first century AD. It was just one aspect of Hindu culture that the locals embraced. Many of the shows are based on Ramayana and Mahabharata Hindu epics. The Balinese also use their own stories, and by doing so they made shadow puppetry their own. These tales tend to involve romance, adventure, or slapstick comedy – often a combination of all of these. The love of shadow puppetry has also spread throughout the rest of Indonesia.
The wayang shows are often created using a translucent rice paper screen that is back-lit by flickering candles or a coconut husk oil lamp. Such performances will usually be held at night, but there is a type of shadow puppetry that can be performed during the daylight hours. The whole show is managed with just one puppeteer – this person is often a respected member of the community and is referred to in Bali as a Dalang. This talented individual not only has to play every character in the show, but they are also the director and provider of musical accompaniment. In order to put on such a show the Dalang needs to be highly skilled in a number of areas. There are 15 types of instruments used in the Wayang show and these are collectively known as the Gamelan.
The puppets used in the Wayang show are cut out figures with movable arms. Traditionally they will be made from leather and they will be given added detail using ink. The puppets are attached to sticks so they can be manipulated from behind a rice screen. They are usually 10 to 30 inches (25 to 75 cm) in height. Some puppets will be created with exquisite detail but others can be far more basic in their construction.
Where to See Shadow Puppets in Bali
Visitors to Bali shouldn’t have to search too hard to find a Wayang show – although they will likely have to do a bit of research. One of the best places to look for these shadow puppet shows is in Ubud – this is considered the center for culture and art on the island. Balinese villages will frequently put on these shows to celebrate different religious festivals. A polite tourist who expresses an interest in attending a village Wayang show might get an invite from one of the locals. Some of these traditional shows can last for several hours so it is a good idea to take along a cushion.