When the political party PAS came into power in Kelantan, the staging of Wayang Kulit was prohibited altogether, for its un-Islamic elements and latter proposed a new form which should tell the stories of Malay warriors like Tok Kenali, Tok Janggut and Mat Kilau, and of the country’s renowned religious figures.
Wayang Kulit is a popular shadow puppet show in the East Coast of Malaysia, especially those in Kelantan and Terengganu, and also in Johor. It is a very unique form of theatre employing the principle of light and shadow. The puppets are crafted from cow leather and mounted on bamboo sticks. When held up behind a piece of white cloth, with an electric bulb or an oil lamp as the light source, shadows are cast on the screen.
Wayang Kulit plays are invariably based on romantic tales, especially adaptations of the classic Indian epics, "The Mahabarata" and "The Ramayana". Some of the plays are also based on local happenings (current issues), the social norms, culture, beliefs, attitudes and values. It is up to the conductor or "Tok Dalang" to decide his direction.
Here are some photos during my visit to meet Yusoff Mamat or Pak Soh who has been playing wayang kulit since he was nine. Aside from performing nationwide, Pak Soh, 62, has also travelled to Tokyo, South Africa and Indonesia to showcase his traditional art. He is now one of the Wayang Kulit instructor in Faculty of Performing Arts, UiTM Puncak Alam.
Feel free to visit my buddies blog here and here
Even the traditional forms of the puppets have evolved. The new puppets can take up any role unlike the original puppets which are fixed characters. The “modernisation” of the Wayang Kulit has since changed the minds of the Kelantan State Government which has since lifted the ban.
Kelantan State Government wants wayang kulit exponents to change their approach by telling the stories of bygone Malay warriors and religious figures in their performances, instead of the usual staple of folklore which he says do not benefit society and the nation.
By Azim Idris
8 March 2012