D1RTX7 INDONESIA, Java, wayang kelitik puppet made of painted wood used for the wayang (shadow theater); Private Coll.

Wayang Klitik of Eastern Java

Originating from the kingdoms of Eastern Java, mainly Jenggala, Kediri and Majapahit, wayang klitik is a relatively rare form of the art of wayang, or theatrical performance with puppets.

B2J462 theatre, puppet theatre, shadow play, figure Damar Wulan, Wayang Keltik theatre, Eastern Java, 19th century, Stadtmuseum, Mu

The distinguishing feature of the wayang klitik puppets is that the puppets are flat and made out of carved wood and painted batik, with arms made of leather, as opposed to more three-dimensional puppets in other forms of wayang. The dalang, or puppet masters, manipulate the puppets from below with a main rod attached to a puppet’s body and with thinner rods attached to the puppet’s hands. Often varying in size, wayang klitik puppets are used for performances directly in front of their audience, without any separating screen.

Just as with other forms of wayang, wayang klitik tells tales of heroes and kings, using light and shadow as the main form of communication. In particular, the story that is specific to wayang klitik is the account of a prince-hero from Majapahit who brings down a mighty enemy of Majapahit’s queen and rises to power. The story is popular with the public to this day as a dalang often makes the story more relevant by incorporating the latest local gossip into the play for additional entertainment.