Scholarly article on topic 'The Contribution of Shadow Puppet's Show through Engaging Social Communication in Modern Society'

The Contribution of Shadow Puppet's Show through Engaging Social Communication in Modern Society Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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{"Quality of Life" / "traditional arts" / "shadow puppet" / "story telling" / animation}

Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Wan Nor Raihan Wan Ramli, Farrah ‘Aini Lugiman

Abstract Modern society experiences fewer opportunities concerning the arts and culture that benefits the community strength. The objective of this research is to promote and improve the quality of life in modern community through valuable storytelling by presenting the traditional shadow play in digital conversion of animation. The fundamental approaches for this research are to encourage sharing knowledge and stories about issues of life, which in reflective practice will strengthens togetherness and contribution on cultural environment among creative, and social outreach work practitioners. The outcome is a digital performance shadow puppet animation that narrates stories for a better understanding about life arises for the future's benefits.

Academic research paper on topic "The Contribution of Shadow Puppet's Show through Engaging Social Communication in Modern Society"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 35 (2012) 353 - 360

AicE-Bs 2011 Famagusta

Asia Pacific International Conference on Environment-Behaviour Studies, Salamis Bay Conti Resort Hotel, Famagusta, North Cyprus, 7-9 December 2011

The Contribution of Shadow Puppet's Show through Engaging Social Communication in Modern Society

Wan Nor Raihan Wan Ramli* and Farrah 'Aini Lugiman

Faculty of Art and Design, Universiti Teknologi MARA, 40450 Shah Alam, Malaysia.


Modern society experiences fewer opportunities concerning the arts and culture that benefits the community strength. The objective of this research is to promote and improve the quality of life in modern community through valuable storytelling by presenting the traditional shadow play in digital conversion of animation. The fundamental approaches for this research are to encourage sharing knowledge and stories about issues of life, which in reflective practice will strengthens togetherness and contribution on cultural environment among creative, and social outreach work practitioners. The outcome is a digital performance shadow puppet animation that narrates stories for a better understanding about life arises for the future's benefits.

© 2012 Published b y Elsevier B.V. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Centre for Environment-Behaviour Studies( cE-Bs), Faculty ofArchitecture, Planning & S urveying, Univereiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia

Keywords: Quality of Life; traditional arts; shadow puppet; story telling; animation

1. Introduction

Shadow puppet's play contains high quality of art and craft. The art and craft of the character itself, takes in many forms such as painting, crafting, and they also bring together visual art, vocal and instrumental music, drama, literature and dance, as well as the art of the puppeteer, who need to be skilled enough to bring life to shadow play's characters. Shadow play inspires variations of theme, mood and style, depending on their performances. People have been creating them for thousand years in building motion and life. It is a way for individuals and communities to express and engage themselves with

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +6-035-544-3047; fax: +6-035-544-4011. E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2012 Published by Elsevier B.V. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Centre for Environment-Behaviour Studies(cE-Bs),

Faculty of Architecture, Planning & Surveying, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia


family, friends, and their neighborhood's communities. In addition, it influences the audience as a means of communication, also as an extension of human expression through its unique philosophical value (Ismunandar, 1994).

In Malaysia, shadow play is slowly becoming isolated. According to Sweeney (1972), the number of puppeteers decreased drastically from 37 people in 1982, to 25 people in 1988, and 11 people in 1999. New media, such as television and movies, have taken away the leisure aspects of shadow play performances. In addition, the word 'traditional' itself gives a perception that it is monotonous. The isolation is increasing as people believe that Islam forbids the use of human figures and fantasy storylines. As a result, on 30th March 2008, a new version of Wayang Kulit was introduced by the Kelantanese Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP). This shadow play comes with new storylines about people's daily life and educational stories, portrayed in accordance with Islamic ways, without fantasy elements in it. Since few audiences see shadow play as an art form now, the performance of shadow play shows a big decline. Shadow play is categorized as a dying art. It has faced obstacles from politics, religions, cultures and other secular public services that have slowly diminished shadow play's appearances. Thus, to revive the slowly eroding art form, the idea of creating shadow play on screen has arisen.

The contemporary generation is the one who upholds the quality of life in the future. They are the generator for most of the technology success. Each time the new technology walking-in, they are the first to experiment them. The skills they provide help to maintain and upgrade the business technology enhancement. Dato' Tengku Alaudin (1999) suggests the contemporary generation to learn and respect the value of shadow play in Information Technology (IT) as a tourist product, and at the same time, as a medium of education. According to Currell (1999), the twentieth century has brought new materials and techniques to puppet theatre. A revival of interest in the art through television and the film has renewed on the quality of live performances(p. 9). Therefore, they will make a sustainable success on the social communication through the arts and culture of their own. For instance, the arts and culture have long been used to facilitate social cohesion as the collective dialogue and storytelling from the past which being pass down for the future's heirs. It has been proven by the contribution of shadow puppet's show since the time it has been originated.

Fig. 1. Plato's Republic, Chapter VII. The Allegory of the Cave illustrates by Plato's vision. (Soccio, 2001, p. 156).

Keith Rawling (2003), in his review on Plato's Republic, Chapter VII, titled "The Allegory of the Cave" described the earliest references to shadow play. In the allegory, written in approximately 366 BC, mentions figures, a fire, conjurors (performing magicians), a curtain in front of the performers, an audience, and speaking and moving shadows. It is all about the essential elements of shadow theatre, all in one place. Shadow puppets narrated the quality of life as it takes to positives and negatives interactions between black and white, good and evil, joy and sorrow in their performance. The performance can help in fostering the community strength for a sense of social belonging. Therefore, worldwide audiences can appreciate for its entertainment value, historical and cultural significance.

The potential utility of the studies can be determined through the effectiveness of traditional learning, which is storytelling. The development tools are the animated shadow puppets as the characters narrator. The tools are to deliver valuable stories and as been shown in Plato's Republic, Chapter VII. The Allegory of the Cave illustrates by Plato's vision. The lesson from the past has granted on how culture brought up from the civilization beyond the border. Cueva & Kuhnley (2003) refers the beginning of the learning process is an epilogue with a narrative that been described and share-out to public. This cooperation turns to engage people and changes individual attention on meaningful narration that they heard off.

The methods structured for this studies starts through a survey in order to get responses from people's opinion on how to bring traditional shadow play together with the new technology, the scholars' perception to how far the use of shadow puppetry in society activities and awareness and resourcefulness to others for the purpose to preserve it for the future generation. It begins from the time it was originated until recent contribution. Next, self-experienced on-live performance of shadow puppet has to do with the engagement of viewers' assembly and adaptation of the story placement to dispense moral needed. Discussion session with shadow puppet practitioners is to seek their opinions towards shadow puppet attitudes, their knowledge beliefs, their feeling with the heritage and at the same time to clarify people's moral principles as to how far they were concerned about this dwindling heritage. The preservation method used in restoring the performances is not the only things that need to be considered. The art and craft of shadow play also needed to be understood in order to make it parallel with the new technologies. This will ensure that the new generation can identify shadow puppet even though being shown in any form of technologies, and in doing so, they will appreciate their ancestors and heritage.

Considering the methods, the outcome of the research is a short clip animation of shadow puppet entailing the story explaining life that contains some positive advices with some additional forms and brilliant color to shadow puppet characters and its environment for the purpose of enhancement and attraction. The following outcomes are to coordinate, promote valuable and cultural education activities throughout the talented creative group artists. Creative artists help in giving some visuals to viewers about the look of shadow puppet's characters in screened form. The outcome illustrates the collection of important topics and issues, which were open for discussion and opinions from other disciplines.

2. Perception and opinion

Shadow puppetry has broad traveling cross communities within which they have gained great capacity of stories' repertoire. A multicultural country with a great bond with each other has long been educated from the shadow puppetry influences. The bond consists of customs; beliefs and social life are being taken as a textual and being a theme to any shadow puppet's performance. They are the images or icons of their society during the past time.

2.1. The revival story and its social contribution

Shadow puppetry known by different names in different countries and has adapted according to local myths and languages. In Malaysia and Indonesia, it known by the name 'wayang kulit'. In China, it been called 'pi ying xi'. In France, it been called 'ombres chinoises', which means Chinese shadow. In Turkey, it been called 'Karagoz' which represent a Turkish shadow play's hero ('Ombres Chinoises', 2008). The way it handed over through centuries proved by their existences. Having it around for such a long period created a cultural value for each country where shadow play had existed, in return, creating the respect it deserved. People started to identify themselves with the characters and tried to emulate them. It is essential to understand shadow play characters, its background, its conception, implications and influences in order to present it correctly.

According to Keith Rawling (2003), in India, shadow play had been given a high support by the local rulers and allowed settlements in different regions. The clan, which was a wandering tribe, spread their art as they migrated to the further south, performing the shadow plays of Maharashtra. Another clan of the original tribe migrated to Karnataka, taking their art form with them. The art flourished throughout the later centuries and was refurbished under the royal support of various rulers in these regions. Besides, most shadow play performances are held among farmers at the villagers' fairs and festivals. Shadow play is a leisure time entertainment activity and is enjoyed by all the villagers. The villagers believe that the show can bring peaceful and long life to their cattle and protects them from drought and other natural disasters. (Baird, 1965, p. 56)

The Indonesian island of Java and Bali is probably the most popular and well-known place for shadow play's performance until today. Javanese performances are associated with the court, whereas Balinese performances are folk traditions and belong to the community as a whole. They have developed separately. (Keith Rawling (2003) In Thailand, Tasanee Yawaprapas (2002) described what happened in 1960, there was a fire at the National Theatre that destroyed many Nang yai's puppets. As a result, all Nang Yai shows at that time were suspended, and in order to save other puppets, they were shifted to Bangkok's National Museum. It does not ends there; a revival project to restore all the Nang Yai's character has been made for the occasion of 50th anniversary throne of His Majesty King Bumibol Adulyadej. At the same time, this project introduces the craftsmanship of Thai's ancient performing art.

In an article from China Daily, titled 'Emerging from the shadows' (2007), the author narrates the story of Cui and his efforts on building up a collection of Chinese Shadow play. Cui Yongping, aged 61, who was designated as a folk art ambassador of Tangzhou District of China. She is an apprentice of the Beijing Shadow Play Troupe in 1960. She also a collector of ancient books, puppets, antique scripts, hide, tools and anything related to shadow play. During the 'cultural revolution' (1966-1976), he was surprised that people were willing to trade shadow play items for a living. It happened in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province. It seems the arts are kept for profitable benefits.

According to Ozlem (2008), Karagoz character in traditional Anatolian show helps as a useful instrument in Turkish society to integrate people of all cultures and religions. They are the gypsies, Jews male dancers known as 'kocek', the Armenians, the Greek and the Arabs. Their songs and voices add distinctiveness to shadow play in Turkey. Although traditional shadow play has been preserved and renew from time to time in various ways, they managed to strengthen the foundation for much longer time.

2.2. Practitioners and educators

Perceptions and opinion from practitioners and educators in the preserving field needed in order to understand their works and expectations of this dwindling heritage. Mohammed Ghouse Nasuruddin stated in his paperwork, with all the development in the countries and on the enlargement of science and technology, the pattern of living changes a new work type and a new way of entertainment. Rapid development of infrastructure in housing, manufacturing, and education and even past time activities has

changed the society's taste and ways of lives. Urban culture portrays the attitude, manner and even the modern entertainment that piloted to westerns' influences.

Kamarulbahri who is an educator in Akademi Seni Kebangsaan (ASK) do mentioned that society still could not accept and value shadow puppet origin. They do not know and expose clearly about it. The causes are because there is not enough information and promotions deliver to masses and because of that, interests and tastes of the society have changed with the technology movements. In sequence with that, a new approach to deliver information and promotion should be implemented. It has to be sync with the tastes and interests of the future generations. It goes the same opinion with Budi Surasa Putra, who is a puppeteer and a director of gamelan performance in Indonesian Embassy. He has added that the interesting part in putting on a shadow puppetry performance is really complex as it deals with many elements such as the gamelan orchestra, the stagecraft, lighting, and finding a skillful puppeteer.

According to Dato' Dr. Othman Yatim, a nation would have to come out with a new invention in order to be seen civilized. He is responsible in the preserving of Malaysian cultural heritage. He also suggest the transformation of traditional shadow puppetry into digital form would be a proof of civilization. Human needs evidence to prove they are civilized. There must be a way to compile all the information in this modern era. Shadow puppetry is categorized as an intangible heritage because it is hard to preserve. It keeps on changing from time to time and many new ideas have been used together with it. He invites and encourages new generations who are willing to revive this heritage in order to give it a new look. It needs to be recorded and spread widely. He is concerned that any form of changes will follow the context, personal, social and physical function of the art for its cultural belonging.

2.3. Self-experienced and observations

The purpose of attending a shadow play performance was to experience the environment itself, with observation being done to discover puppeteer's skills and the placement of the props. Audience's attitudes were observed in order to see their level of concentration with the performance. A shadow play performance is been held at PATAKA Museum of Arts and Cultures in Wellington. A well-known Javanese master puppeteer, Dr. Joko Susilo, have carried the performance. He is the eighth generation of Indonesian 'dhalang'. The show is accompanies by a traditional Javanese percussion orchestra, Gamelan Padhang Moncar. The performance has supplemented some information and gave a first hand look at how the show operated.

PATAKA Museum of Arts & Cultures, Wellington

A Javanese shadow master puppeteer -

Fig. 2. An Indonesian shadow play performance by master puppeteer, Dr. Joko Susilo

It is an entertaining performance as it has started with beautiful slow songs by the gamelan musicians. The main lights of the room were switched off. The only light switched on was projected onto the screen. The performance has started with the introduction of the characters by puppeteer and the story then begins. The storyline was about Rama and Sita, and most of the audience already knew the story. The story remained as an interesting performance until the end. The performance is a splendid opportunity for Indonesian people in New Zealand to get together. Social communities among other audiences also can be seen as they gather and communicate among them. The performance has created togetherness environment with no restriction watching the performance. The audiences are quite happy for the two hours non-stop performance. This sharing atmosphere has leads to greater opportunities to achieve empowerment in the information and knowledge activities.

3. Related work to direct artwork

Shadow play is one of the earliest examples of animation. Traditional shadow play is a live animation performance in the past. Nowadays, film and animation looks similar to shadow play where both performances use the principle of light projection and have a character's motion with it. The new invention of many creative ideas has slowly replaced in traditional shadow play for the enhancement purposes.

Lotte Reiniger, who was the pioneer of feature length animated film, used the concept of shadow play in her animation. She inspired by the Chinese art of silhouette puppetry. Her first silhouette-animated film was 'The Adventure of Prince Ahmed', which begin in 1923 and finally released in 1926 in Germany. It was a patiently beautiful silhouette animation as according to Blumenthal (2005) she had shot using a camera on the jointed puppet frame cardboard and sheet lead one frame at a time. She also animated the foreground and background movement on additional parallel glass panels (p. 120). The technique known as a 'stop-motion' as it used widely in the film industry nowadays.

There are many contributions from other researchers towards the commonalities in engaging the live traditional shadow play performance. For examples, a 30 seconds television commercial (TVC) in a smooth and interesting advertisement with great visuals of shadow play look done by a Singaporean director, Farouk Adjoffery and his producer Perin Petrus, for their client, Garuda Airlines. The concept behind the TVC shows the icon of the Indonesian airlines, Garuda, a supernatural eagle travelling around some recognize places. The idea is to inform viewers that the airlines are going to landed on the place shown. On the other hand, a new visual of shadow play had been used to portray the cultural heritage of the Indonesians. The story is well explored and understandable; it is being composed with the concept of shadow puppet's visuals and some background music.

Fig. 3. (a) A TVC for Garuda airlines, Indonesia; (b) A TVC for children's services with the Bernese shadow puppet concept.

Another attempts that similar to the work done is an animation discussing on children's services. The client, Novita is formerly the Crippled Children's Association, which provides services and supports children with physical disabilities in South Australia. This short storytelling commercial has presented as a beautiful animation through the concept of Balinese style shadow play. They have won the third place in Adelaide advertising and design club (AADC) 2007 Awards, under the animation categories. The animator is Judd Christie from the direction of Resin Company. The concept of Balinese shadow play can be seen through the background appearance and their characters movements. The characters were being shown in silhouette form as similar with the traditional characters in shadow play.

As the result, for what have been saying, a short animation through the visual of shadow puppetry has been doing to narrate a story about life to the viewers. The story plot created inspired by a variety of sources. Apart from inspirations from the traditional folklore stories, a narration about the ups and downs in life, where how the story explaining the black and white sides on individual that complete each other. In addition on the storytelling creations, improvisation on the shadow puppet from the original form and movements also has been doing to get a dramatic feel and gain rich repertoires of traditional arts.

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Fig. 4. A completed version of 30 seconds animation with a storytelling pertaining about life.

The audiences for animation seem to be constantly increased demographically as the acceptance on animation is not only among children but even the adults too. Traditional shadow play seems to decrease slowly, through the arisen of animation industries. The shadow puppet's performance can be enhanced through the combination of the traditional art form with the new media's programs. The idea on developing the new visual appearance of shadow play is to get the convincing looks and slick movements. This will insist the viewers attention towards the show. As the story spread around, sense of self-belonging within cultural claim in communities will be more respected. The story serves as the visual and mediation approaches among the communities

4. Conclusion and future works

The used of art forms in shadow puppetry give a concrete means in redefining the community's collective identity. It considers benefit for the belonging of the culture, in order not to be forgotten. Despite the contribution, the outcomes are the incorporating components of creativity, collaboration, and cultural heritage in the same ways to promote the intuitive storytelling to engage viewers' beliefs through the art of shadow puppetry.

According to Lowe (2001) and Matarasso (1997), the arts have enabled communities to transform a negative image to positive beliefs. Thus, there is a need to develop a local talent pool of skilled, well trained puppeteers, who will help evaluate the pros and cons on local culture stories and then develop the characters as liked by the people of the respective region, in order to inspires many people to gain interest

towards the heritage. Currell (1999) said, with the advent of a new millennium, achievement could be seen on the reviving of live performance including their arts, materials and techniques through the new media (p. 9). People who involved in new media industries tend to put on the live performances of traditional shadow play on an electronic screen. Some tends to use the concept of shadow itself in their animation and performances. Shadow play has spread around and inspires people to produce different concepts.


We thank to Indonesian Embassy of New Zealand, who provides us with the materials to obtain the shadow puppet figures and informations on the latest shadow puppetry performance when we traveled abroad, their practitioner and educator - Mr. Budi Surasa Putra. We thank the practitioners and educators of Wayang Kulit Malaysia in Akademi Seni Kebangsaan-Che Mohd Nasir Yussof (Puppeteer, Educator) and Mr. Kamrul Bahri Hussin (Musician, Educator). Finally to Dato' Dr. Othman Yatim, who was a Professor Academic Staff, Malay Studies, School of Asian and European Languages and Cultures, Humanities and Social Sciences in Victoria University of Wellington. We would like to thanks the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. The appreciation also goes to all colleagues for their encouragement and useful sources.


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