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A three-dimensional male humanoid figure puppet. Has a large head and jointed arms attached to controlling rods. The head is positioned forward with the face split vertically into brown and yellow hemispheres. The bulging eyes with red irises are directed upwards. There is a wide, flat nose, and prominent upper teeth between the red lips with two large canines extending over the bottom lip. No headdress. Flat textured black hair. The corpulent body with large belly and gold-coloured skin has ornaments in two pieces at the wrists. Wearing a brown close-fitting top with a brown and blue batik skirt.

History Of Use

Javanese puppetry as an art form probably developed by the 11th century. Wayang golek puppets of western Java appeared during the 16th century. Originally the plays depicted Javanese mythology, but after the Indian conquest of Java the Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, were incorporated into the cycles, which comprise about 200 plays. A dalang (puppet master) performs the plays to celebrate important occasions, usually in three acts, with vocal and instrumental accompaniment. Typically they serve a moral and religious purpose, and more recently, one of political commentary. Role of puppet not determined; demons appear in all cycles as allies to the antagonists. They are always considered to be foreigners, although the buta are an Indonesian addition to the Hindu epics.

Cultural Context

Theatrical performance.

Iconographic Meaning

Each puppet is characterized by it's wanda, a Javanese word which describes the specific mixture of elements of size, form, colour, ornamentation and carving. Position of face and eyes suggests irreverence; red eyes implies anger or aggressiveness. Significance of split colour-face not known; possibly suggests two natures, although brown and yellow are unusual skin colours, and do not refer to character types. Bulging features, nose, fangs identify puppet as a buta (demon or raseksa). Character not identified; buta are a highly variable class of puppet.

Item History

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