These scenes from a performance done on December 24, 1978, at Cibintinu near Bandung in West Java were presented in the style of wayang golek purwa—a wooden rod-puppet theatre telling Ramayana and Mahabharata stories that is popular among the Sundanese-speakers who live in this region of Indonesia. The dalang (puppetmaster), Abah Sunarya, was at that time one of the foremost popular performers in West Java. In this genre intricately carved doll puppets dance to the music of the gamelan orchestra on a temporary stage set up in front of the house of the person who has hired the troupe. The dalang does the narration, singing, and dialogue with occasional comments or questions added by the musicians, especially the lurah sekar (head musician). The puppeteer and troupe perform on a raised stage; in front of it is a banana log placed horizontally to form the playboard where the puppets present the play. The play is at once an entertainment and an exorcism. As the performance progresses, the puppets on stage all have their counterparts in the ritual. But rather than a play within a play, this is a play within a ceremony where the script and ritual action intersect at key points. While the mantras are efficacious regardless of the entertainment or educational value, there is no doubt that being able to point out parallels between the mythic monsters and members of the Suharto family won this performer the rapt attention of his audience. Perhaps it was his renown as a dalang who did exorcisms that prevented the censors from stopping his performances.


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