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 Thailand 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 high durability. Most leather puppets were, and continue to be, influenced by the social context around the crafters.
The traditional process of crafting shadow puppets requires 30-40 days, from the procurement of leather to the completion of the product. The characters are designed purely from imagination. Kelantan puppets, especially the Seri Rama and Laksamana figures, are similar to the traditional clothing of the people from southern Thailand.
Project TypeCraft collaborated with Sri Setia Pulau Singa, the only art group in Singapore that practices Kelantanese Wayang Kulit and make their own puppets. They share their knowledge in the philosophy behind the process of wayang kulit making and guide the workshop participants in the making by using the actual materials and tools used by the crafters.
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.
Hanuman Kera Putih
Hanuman Kera Putih is king of the apes and also the son of Sri Rama and Siti Dewi. 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
Defining the shapes
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 crafter cuts the leather to size depending on the requirement.
Once the design is transferred onto the hide, holes are punched as embellishment at this stage.
These little holes, when held
against the light, bring out the
details of the puppet.
Outlining the figures
The artist combined various leather punching tools to create the intended ornaments/motifs.
Fine cut-outs, such as 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.
Colouring the figures
Once the figure is cut out, the leather is coloured in vibrant hues. Ink is used as a colouring agent and is applied with a brush.
Different colours are then filled into the figure. This requires painstaking precision and a considerable amount of time. Black, red and green are some of the colours commonly used in the puppets.
To make the puppets, individual parts of the figures are cut and then assembled together. This enables mobility for manipulating the puppets during a puppet show.
The crafter makes use of a stick to operate the puppets. The puppet figure is then mounted on sticks and bound with nylon strings to facilitate movements that will enhance the performance.