March 15, 2012

Striving for a Perfect Soul

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“I’m just happy to create,” says Purbo Asmoro, a living treasure of Indonesian shadow puppetry. Born in East Java in 1961, Purbo embodies not only the legacy behind his immense skill — the performances of which are called wayang — but he is also one of the art’s most creative practitioners. As a dhalang, or “master of shadows,” his duty is threefold: directing the gamelan ensemble that accompanies his singing and the action it describes; reciting dialogue and story; and manipulating the puppets themselves. Not surprisingly, Purbo comes from a long line of puppeteers whose traditions he has expanded. His innovations run the gamut from the practical (he designs some of the sets used during performance, composes, and choreographs) to the political (introducing leading female characters in an attempt to equalize gender relations in this otherwise male-dominated tradition).

Original Author: Tyran Grillo