This Wayang Golek Puppet was acquired in 2002 when we came upon him hanging in the window of a small bric-a-brac store in the little village of Churchstoke (Yr Ystog) near our home in Montgomeryshire.
This stick puppet of Rama the god Vishnu come to earth as an avatar (notably in this case without his characteristic blue skin) is from the Wayang Golek puppet theatre tradition of Java. This puppet would have been used as Rama in a performance of the Hindu epic The Ramayana, or maybe also Krishna in a puppet show of the Mahabharata. Wayang Golek Puppet Theatre performances included other Hindu Epics as well as Javanese history and Islamic Menak cycles. The shows were given in towns and villages on holidays and for a variety of festivals. The puppet-master, the Dalang, choreographed the puppets’ actions to music from a gamelan orchestra and spoke their words.
The puppet is made out of wood and dressed in a batik sarong. The bodice of the costume is made from felt, with sequins, tassels and braid. The design and decoration indicate that this puppet comes from the Pri Angan mountainous region of West Java.
Nowadays, these puppets are mainly made as souvenirs for the tourist market, although shows are still being performed in parts of Indonesia and Java.