SANTA FEAN MAKES UNIQUE FIND IN INDONESIA.Byline: GUSSIE FAUNTLEROY
In late spring of 2007, Felicia Katz Harris set off on a three-month visit to Indonesia to research the history, artistry and cultural elements of a traditional shadow puppet theater called wayang Wayang is an Indonesian word for theater. When the term is used to refer to kinds of puppet theater, sometimes the puppet itself is referred to as wayang. "Bayang", the Javanese word for shadow or imagination, also connotes "spirit. kulit. As curator of Asian and Middle Eastern folk art folk art, the art works of a culturally homogeneous people produced by artists without formal training. The forms of such works are generally developed into a tradition that is either cut off from or tenuously connected to the contemporary cultural mainstream. at the Museum of International Folk Art The Museum of International Folk Art is a state-run institution in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. It is one of eight museums operated by the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs. , she hoped to gather information and materials for an exhibition on the ancient Javanese art form and its exquisite puppets.
What Katz Harris didn't expect was to end up facilitating a purchase that makes the Santa Fe Santa Fe, city, Argentina
Santa Fe, city (1991 pop. 341,000), capital of Santa Fe prov., NE Argentina, a river port near the Paraná, with which it is connected by canal. museum unique in the United States.
Just before leaving for the South Pacific island nation, Katz Harris was told by a colleague about a master Javanese puppeteer who had a full set of spectacular classical shadow puppets available for acquisition. The puppets, which are flat and intricately carved, painted and often adorned with gold leaf, are made of water buffalo water buffalo: see buffalo.
or Indian buffalo
Any of three subspecies of oxlike bovid (species Bubalus bubalis). Two have been domesticated in Asia since the earliest recorded history. hide and horn, water-based paint, fish glue and other materials.
Rather than being created for the tourist market, the set has a rich performance history by Ki Purbo Asmoro, among the most popular Javanese puppeteers. This provenance greatly increases the puppets' value as cultural artifacts.
As it turned out, the International Folk Art Foundation, which sponsored Katz Harris' trip, provided the money for the museum to purchase the set of more than 200 finely carved and painted puppets for its permanent collection -- and for an exhibition opening in March 2009, Dancing Shadows, Epic Tales: Wayang Kulit of Indonesia.
Before the acquisition, MOIFA MOIFA Museum of International Folk Art (New Mexico) , like other museums, had a number of wayang kulit in its collection. But the puppets originated from different sets and different parts of Indonesia, with multiples of some traditional characters and other characters missing, Katz Harris explained. Asmoro's complete set was collected and used by the puppeteer over a period of more than 20 years. The purchase also included individual wayang kulit from other performers and artists.
With a lifelong interest in Southeast Asian culture and art, Katz Harris holds a master's in anthropology from Arizona State University Arizona State University, at Tempe; coeducational; opened 1886 as a normal school, became 1925 Tempe State Teachers College, renamed 1945 Arizona State College at Tempe. Its present name was adopted in 1958. , with a focus on Southeast Asian studies Southeast Asian Studies refers to research and education on the language, culture, and history of the different states and ethnic groups of Southeast Asia. External links
As a graduate student she spent time in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, on a fellowship learning the Indonesian language, and has returned several times since then. Before joining MOIFA's staff, she worked at the Brooklyn Children's Museum Coordinates: The Brooklyn Children's Museum is a general purpose museum in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Founded in 1899, it was the first museum in the world to cater specifically to children. The museum is currently undergoing renovation. and the Woody Guthrie Archives in New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of .
The curator's 2007 trip to Indonesia allowed her to become immersed in the Javanese culture of which wayang kulit is said to be the heart.
For her first shadow puppet performance, for example, she was invited to sit among the musicians of the traditional gamelan gamelan
Indigenous orchestra of Java and Bali and, more generally, of Indonesia and Malaysia. A gamelan usually consists largely of gongs, xylophones, and metallophones (rows of tuned metal bars struck with a mallet). Gamelan polyphony is complex and many-voiced. orchestra, on stage close to the puppeteer. It was an honored seat and an experience of intense musical and visual magnificence.
But it also meant that during the performance, which lasted until dawn, Katz Harris was too self-conscious to get up and walk around, as wayang kulit audiences traditionally do. They talk, eat noodles noo·dle 1
A narrow, ribbonlike strip of dried dough, usually made of flour, eggs, and water.
[German Nudel. , drink coffee and play games, coming and going with ease.
Katz Harris, on the other hand, was concerned she would be a distraction if she stood up. So she sat unmoving among the musicians for more than eight hours, with increasing physical discomfort (especially since she was four months pregnant at the time.) Suffice it to say she politely declined all offers of an onstage seat after that.
In times past, the puppeteer worked behind a lit screen, creating highly animated shadow figures on the screen. Audience members were free to walk around and watch the action behind the screen.
Today, at least in Central Java, the situation is reversed, Katz Harris explained. The puppeteer most often works his magic in full view of the public, who can wander behind the screen and watch the shadow dance.
What hasn't changed is that a single puppeteer manipulates all the puppets throughout the entire epic performance, bringing to life each character's distinct personality, voice, physical traits and movements, all within the context of the character's specific and often complicated personal and family history and social relations.
It's a daunting daunt
tr.v. daunt·ed, daunt·ing, daunts
To abate the courage of; discourage. See Synonyms at dismay.
[Middle English daunten, from Old French danter, from Latin task, augmented by the fact that many performers also design and/or create their own puppets. Just as complex and intricate are the tales the puppets perform, full of morality lessons, philosophy, battles and love stories reflecting the values of Javanese culture and society, Katz Harris said.
For someone with a passionate interest in all aspects of Indonesian culture, the curator's research visits to the islands have been rewarding, both personally and professionally. "I have a great job," she said. "I feel lucky every day."