Introduction

Wayang Kulit Kelantan is also known as Wayang Siam as it has Siamese influence. It is a medium of entertainment, sharing and transmitting stories and folklore, and communicating information and knowledge.

Most of the Wayang Kulit Kelantan stories are derived from the Thai version of the Ramayana Epic. Initial leather puppets come from wooden leaves. Because these wooden leaves do not last long, leather puppets are made from goatskin or cowhide because their durability is very high. Most leather puppets were, and continue to be, influenced by the social context around the artists.

The traditional process of crafting shadow puppets requires 30-40 days, from the procurement of leather to the completion of the product. The designed character is out of imagination. Kelantan puppets, especially the Seri Rama and Laksamana statues, are similar to the traditional clothing of the southern Thai people.

Principal Puppets

Most Wayang Kulit Kelantan puppets have both feet pointed in the same direction and stand on an elaborated vehicle in the form of a serpent. They have a single articulated arm jointed at the shoulder, elbow, and wrist to allow movement during the show and hold their weapon on the other arm that is non-movable.

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Hanuman Kera Putih

Hanuman Kera Putih is the son of Sri Rama and Siti Dewi and the king of apes. He has firm body, broad round nose, big eyes, large mouth and a red tail rise up. Similar to facial features of other ape characters, he has sharp teeth, long tongue, a headdress and an earpiece. He holds a sword on his non-articulated arm and his nails impress.

Process of Puppet-Making

01

Defining the shapes
and
cutting

The process starts with the procurement of fresh goat hide from the weekly meat market. The hide is then soaked in cold water for two to three hours before it can be cut and flattened.

 

The hide is washed thoroughly in warm water and then put to dry in the sun for a few hours. Once it is ready, the artists cut the leather to size depending on the product requirement.

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Once the design is cut out on the hide, it is outlined with black ink. Holes are punched as embellishment at this stage.

Once the outlines are drawn, little windows are cut out in the leather.

 

These little windows, when held against the light, bring out the details of the puppet.

02

Outlining the figures

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The artist combined various leather punching tools to create the intended ornaments/motifs. 

 

Fine cut-outs, such as this flora and fauna design, are made on the leather sheet.

Tools used for the puppets to cut out little windows in the leather and the respective shapes that they create.

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03

Colouring the figures

Once the figure is outlined, the leather is coloured in vibrant hues, such as red, green and ochre, among others. Ink is used as a colouring agent and is applied with a brush.

After marking the outlines, different colours are filled into the main form. This requires painstaking precision and a considerable amount of time. Black, red and green are some of the colours commonly used in the puppets.

Rigging
the puppets

04

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To make the puppets, individual parts of the products are cut and then stitched together. This enables mobility for manipulating the puppets during a puppet show.

The artist prepares a stick that will be used to operate the puppets. The puppet form is then mounted on sticks and bound with nylon strings to facilitate movement.

The mobility of the puppets  enhances the performance. In order to allow movement, certain parts of the puppet are cut separately and then tied to each other individually.

Musical Instruments Used

GONG