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‘Wayang Kulit’ Retains Its Aura

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KUALA LUMPUR – If anyone think that traditional shadow puppetry or ‘wayang kulit’ is already forgotten or quite boring, the perception is wrong as the old entertainment showcased by Kumpulan Seni Warisan Pusaka, here, still has its own aura.

Sitting behind the white canvas and lighten up with dim yellow light, while accompanied by gamelan music, the Tok Dalang (narrator) started to sing while moving the puppets and animating the voices of more than three characters in the story called ‘Bunga Cempaka Kenchana Malar Ajaib’ in the Kelantanese dialect.

The Tok Dalang, Muhammad Nor Hassan, 59, or better known as Pak Awi, said the performance tells the story of a princess named Sita Dewi, who fell ill and her guardians, namely Serama and Laksamana, went on a journey to find a cure for her but had to face some challenges.

During the show, even though it was conducted fully in Kelantanese dialect, the audience seemed to enjoy every moment of the scenes, especially when the puppets were dancing and ‘fighting’ with each other, which drew laughter from the audience.

“The show is a mixed of old historical and contemporary stories to make it more modern and suitable for young generation nowadays,” he told Bernama, recently.

Pak Awi, who has more than 30 years experience in wayang kulit, said there are eight members in his team that played traditional Malay instruments such as serunai, drum and gong.

“At those times, it could be more than 10 members in a wayang kulit’s team but now one person could be able to handle two or three instruments at a time so seven to eight members in a team is already enough,” he said.

The performance is showcased in conjunction with ‘KataKatha – Southeast Asian Conversations on Culture and the Arts’ programme, organised by the cultural non-profit organisation, Pusaka and Maybank Foundation. It is a
four-day event, that began last Thursday (Nov 12) until Sunday.

Pusaka’s managing director, Pauline Fan said wayang kulit was not something that people could watch very often as the ancient performance could only be seen at certain events, particularly in Kelantan.

“People especially teenagers are eager to know and watch this kind of heritage show. We have the responsibility to introduce it to the society widely,” she said.

Pauline said KataKatha is the best platform in Malaysia that gathered arts and culture practitioners from the Southeast Asia region to discuss and exchange ideas that also allowed them to express creativity besides encouraging diversity in thinking.

“This programme is not only focused on art and culture practitioners such as writers, dancers, film makers and artists. The public, especially the young generation also can join in the discussion so that they can learn their own and other cultures as well as valuable heritage,” she said.

She added apart from discussions, the programme also included other activities such as public reading, movie screenings, and a public forum.

Themed ‘Shared History, Shared Culture, Shared Traditions’, KataKatha has gathered 10 principal Southeast Asian intellectual cultural figures from Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia. – BERNAMA

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