shadows, indonesia, puppet, moesgaard museum, de etnografiske samlinger, ethnography, collections, museum, aarhus, denmark

Shadow play: The Wayang Kulit

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The shadows on the wall are dancing in the dim light coming from several candles. Despite the questionable rigidness, it moves effortlessly across the stage. For a moment its facial expression seems to change, and the shadow seems alive. Though the audience knows that the shadow is controlled by a puppet master, the puppet’s obvious quixotic exterior can be experienced like something alive and yet dead. It is moving between worlds, creating a gap in reality. But what is it that makes the obvious reality deviant puppet a believable imitation of a fictional character? What is it about the shadow that fascinates?

This specific shadow is the shadow of the Wayang Kulit; a puppet used for shadow theatre in Indonesia. The shadow theatre is an art form and entertainment, but it also helps to create a distance between the lived world and the world of shadows; it is a reminder of what is real and what constitutes reality. And as such it is a kind of anthropologist helping us to understand what it means to be human, by being like and not-like its human counterpart.

//Malthe Lehrmann

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putting thought to things

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