The Shadow Puppet Theatre: Wayang Kulit – Capucine

At school last year in year 2, Puppets was my topic for a term. We learned about Miss Piggy, Kermit the frog and other puppets made out of fabrics, we made puppets out of magazines and papier mache and did a big show at the end of term for our parents and we also made shadow puppets out of paper. We got a sheet of paper, we cut it into a shape (like a butterfly or anything) and then we drew the details of it and then we took a wooden lollipop stick and we stuck it with sellotape to the back of the paper so we could hold it upright and move it around.  We took a torch and we put it behind our puppet so it could make a shadow onto a white piece of paper. I really enjoyed learning about puppets so I was so excited when my mummy said we were going to see a shadow puppet show in Bali!

Wayang means shadow and Kulit means skin in Javanese. Wayan Kulit  is a shadow puppet theatre performance. The music accompanying the show is performed by the gamelan orchestra (or at least a gangsa which is like a giant xylophone player). UNESCO goes around the world and helps buildings not fall down and stay in good shape and helps also helps saving Arts and Crafts and made Wayang Kulit, the show puppet art in Indonesia, ‘Masterpiece of Humanity’ in 2003 to help it not disappear.

The shadow puppet theatre originally come from India and China.

The puppets are made from buffalo skin cut into a shape of a puppet and held by buffalo horn handles to keep it upright so it is not floppy and also to move the body parts during the performance. The screen is a white cotton cloth and they use a big pot of oil to make an oil lamp to make the light. You create a shadow by taking the puppet and putting the oil lamp behind it and then it creates a shadow onto the cloth that’s in front of the puppet. People seat in front of the cloth and watch and enjoy the show.


The master of show, the person who holds all the puppets, tells the story, does all the voices and the noises on his own, is called the dalang. The stories talk about Hinduism which the main religion in Bali (Ramayana and Mahabharata) and also talks about daily life in Bali and good always wins at the end.

One evening in Bali, we saw a shadow puppet show. I was so excited. The theatre was in somebody’s house in Ubud. It had two gangsas in front of the screen and we sat on little benches. The theatre screen was surrounded by beautiful golden Hindu sculptures and masks and we could see the flame of the oil lamp shining through in the middle of the cloth before the show started.

The lights turned off and the beautiful traditional puppet shadows appeared on the screen and the flame gave a beautiful golden flam-y light to the middle of the cloth. That is when they started performing.


The show was in balinese so I could not understand what they were saying but it was still really interesting because you could see all the different actions and movements that they were doing and hear the dalang making all the different voices and the music playing in the background.  One of the puppet looked like a monkey and its mouth was opening and closing and its body parts, like its hands and arms, could move around. It sounded loud and weird and cheeky. Another puppet was long and thin with spiky hair, and its voice was grumpy. The puppets were going left and right crossing each other on the screen and sometimes jumping up and down. At the end of the show I went to see the back of the stage and I saw the different puppets and the oil lamp and the dalang and musicians! They showed me the cheeky monkey and I could see it was made from buffalo skin.



Here are all the characters we saw that night:











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Buta Sungsang






I enjoyed every little bit of the puppet show even if it was in a different language. It does not matter what language it is, you can still understand the show and use your imagination like I always do. I hope I get to see one again someday.

Love, Capucine x



3 thoughts on “The Shadow Puppet Theatre: Wayang Kulit – Capucine

  1. Wow Capucine,
    You are seeing such fun and enchanting sights. I am so happy reading your journal, your stories and experiences are wonderful!


  2. Dear Capucine,

    what a wonderful post! It’s really curious to learn that in your native land puppets for shadow theatre are made from leather. I’ve heard about ones from black cardboard. They must be industrial inventions.

    Best regards,



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