Wayang Golek

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Editors: Karen Christensen and David Levinson
Date: 2002
Encyclopedia of Modern Asia
From: Encyclopedia of Modern Asia(Vol. 6. )
Publisher: Charles Scribner's Sons
Document Type: Topic overview
Pages: 2
Content Level: (Level 5)
Lexile Measure: 1540L

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Page 110
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Wayang golek refers to two main genres of puppet theater in West Java, Indonesia, both of which use wooden rod puppets. One genre, wayang golek cepak, was created in the north coast region of Cirebon, West Java, in the late sixteenth century and is thought to have been used to convert people to Islam. Wayang golek cepak (also called wayang golek menak or wayang bendo) is still performed in the Cirebon Javanese language, and its repertoire includes stories about Amir Hamza (Muhammad's uncle, who brought Islam to the Arab world), the Islamic conversion of Java, and the history of legendary Javanese kingdoms.

The other genre, wayang golek purwa, is performed in the Sundanese language and is thought to be based on a type of wayang kulit (shadow-puppet play) practiced in the area of Tegal on the north coast of central Java. This wayang golek was brought to the Sundanese city of Bandung to entertain Sundanese aristocrats in the early to mid-nineteenth century. The main repertoire of tales is based on the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Puppets range from 15 to 30 inches in height. The head, body, and arms are carved from soft wood and painted in a wide variety of colors. The costumes are made of velvet and other colored fabrics, batik cloth, and sequins. About sixty puppets are used in a single performance. Puppets are organized into four groups, including refined aristocrats, warriors and demon-kings, clowns, and ogres.

In both types of puppetry, the main performer is the dalang or puppeteer, who manipulates the puppets, narrates
Wayang golek puppets in Solo, Indonesia, in the 1990s. (LINDSAY HEBBERD/CORBIS) Wayang golek puppets in Solo, Indonesia, in the 1990s. (LINDSAY HEBBERD/CORBIS) Page 111  |  Top of Article the tale, sings many of the songs, and directs a troupe of musicians who play the instruments of the gamelan (Indonesian percussion instruments). Wayang golek blends puppetry, narrative, dialogue, song, instrumental music, movement, and dance. Performances are all-night affairs that play a central role in Sundanese cultural and civic life. A wayang golek performance coincides with a hajat, a ritual feast in which food is served, prayers are recited, and spirits are asked to bless the feast's host. The most common hajat are weddings and circumcisions. Performances are also held for ritual purification ceremonies (ruatan). Wayang golek performances are opportunities for people to gather and reflect on issues that affect their everyday lives.

Andrew Weintraub

Further Reading

Foley, Kathy. (1979) "The Sundanese Wayang Golek: The Rod Puppet Theatre of West Java." Ph.D. diss., University of Hawaii.

Weintraub, Andrew. (2001) Wayang Golek: The Sound and Celebration of Sundanese Puppet Theater. Six-compact-disc set and accompanying forty-four-page booklet. Vermont: Multicultural Media.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3403703188