A Look Into The History of Wayang

By Unit Pengelola Museum Seni

Rangda, shadow puppet (20th century) by Unknown authorMuseum of Ethnology & Museum of Popular Art

In 2003, UNESCO acknowledged Indonesian wayang as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. 

Wayang comes from the word “ma Hyang” meaning a journey towards land of spirituality. It also said that Wayang originated from a Javanese word meaning shadow. While the term referred to the entire wayang performance, most of the time the puppet itself is referred to as wayang. 

Onterja by UnknownUnit Pengelola Museum Seni

More than just a puppet performance, Wayang Kulit is traditionally used as a medium for reflection toward the spiritual spirit of the gods. A Wayang performance is for entertainment, guidance and order in society.

Wayang Kulit onder begeleiding van een gamelanorkest, Nederlands-Indië (1890 - 1900) by Céphas, KassianRijksmuseum

Wayang, a classical Javanese shadow puppet performance was known to be developed since before the 10th century. Wayang is renowned for its elaborate and orchestrated performance and this ancient form of storytelling originated from Indonesian island of Java.

Wayang kulit, or shadow puppets, are without a doubt the best known of the Indonesian wayang. The stories are usually drawn from the Hindu epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata from India. Until today, Museum Wayang has up to 4,000 wayang collection.

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