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(March 7,1974 / Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia)

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Wayang Kulit

the unique world of myths
symbols and religious beliefs
most difficult to understand

the puppet master, or dalang
tells his story by projecting
the shadows of the puppets

he manipulates behind
a white screen and a large lamp
he plays several characters at once
basically an epic narrative

shifting from Old-Javanese
to the High-Balinese
singing and hitting a box
to mark the rhythm

a good dalang
is a one-man-show
being in turns smart
funny and melancholic

borrows the frame
of his narrative
from the great epics
of Indo-Javanese tradition

the Ramayana
the Mahabharata
although other stories
may sometimes be used

he then creates his own episodes
usually concerning a hero's quest
for a magical weapon, heavenly secret or partner

the hero, accompanied by buffoons
succeeds eventually after tortuous adventures
in the wilderness and fights with evil giants

the two sets of puppets
the heroes on the right
the villains on the left
symbolise eternal struggle
between good and evil

but for the audience
dalang's ability to poke fun
at everyone through mouths
of the buffoons is no less important
than the narrative itself

Submitted: Tuesday, September 02, 2008


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Comments about this poem (A Diary Four (La Isla Samba) by Ahmad Shiddiqi )

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  • Ben Gieske (1/17/2009 9:22:00 AM)

    I am learning a lot through your poems. Before reading your poem I searched the internet for an explanation of the meaning of Wayang Kulit and discovered an explanation of shadow puppets. It helped me appreciate the thoroughness and emphases of your poem. The dalang is certainly a talented person. You make a good point in your ending (ability to poke fun at everyone) . Of course, I am thinking of politicians.

    4 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • Carol Rhodes (9/10/2008 9:02:00 PM)

    More words of magic. Do you have at least a 200-IQ? Mere thoughts create brilliant mind trips! Carol

  • Katherine Ng Li Hoon (9/3/2008 7:44:00 AM)

    Your write reminds me of my younger days when I watch wayang kulit with my siblings.Those were the days that I truly enjoy the best part of my life i.e. childhood.Fantastic write Ahmad!

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