I daresay it was a treat so rare to have had a professor in dentistry, former VC of Universiti Malaya ( 2003-2006), now VC of IUNC ( International Univesity College of Nursing) as our esteemed Tok Dalang ( master puppeter and storyteller) in early December at the Museum of Asian Arts for a special performance. Indeed it was an extraordinary morning with Dato Prof Hashim Yaacob. In my humble opinion, he's had his fair share of awarding marks to all his students under his wings. But that morning it was our turn to give him top marks for an entertaining lecture on the history of wayang kulit in Kelantan. And for being the dalang as he carried an admirable performance in 'Sir Isaac Newton and The Fallen Apple'.
|Oops! an apple on Sir Isaac Newton's head!|
Sitting cross -legged on the floor,behind a white screen cloth, Prof Hashim and his gamelan musicians were in full synergy. Prof Hashim held court - he narrated, he was the 'action man' with the puppets manipulating them accordingly and sweeping his characters across the face of the screen. He breathed life into the plot and there were many hilarious moments at the surprise turn of events.
|Head of the orchestra demonstrating the different musical instruments - serunai, gong, drums, cymbals|
|Tree of life is always shown before the start of any wayang kulit theatre - to remind us mortals of our connection with the earth.|
|Salutation by way of silat before the play|
|In the moment - mesmerizing the audience|
|Players more than tickled, enjoying themselves too|
|Curtain call - a thunderous applause|
The shadows cast by the light source, which in this case is an electric bulb (oil lamp in the old days), make silhouettes. The story entitled Sir Isaac Newton and The Fallen Apple was specially commissioned a decade ago when science syllabus was taught in English. Plonk! fell the apple on Sir Isaac's head.And a magical journey began when Sir Isaac Newton travelled to the Malay Archipelago to consult a well known Malayan scientist on the puzzling phenomenon of falling apples. The trusty friend helped formulate the famous theory of gravity. But they were threatened by 2 monsters. Much drama ensued. With luck on their side, the heroes survived. Good triumphed over evil and Sir Isaac stayed in Malaysia to help teach English!
Traditionally the wayang kulit depicts scenes from the Hindu epics - Ramayana and Mahabharata but there are also Kelantan folklore with elements from the Ramayana. The most popular shadow play is wayang kulit Siam also known as wayang kulit Kelantan.Invariably the play climaxes with good triumphing over evil.
The stark reality is that there are only 5 dalangs in Malaysia. The well known dalang, Merah passed away last year. I can't recall when I saw a wayang kulit performance. Was it when I was a young girl?? Looks like urbanization and modern entertainment have shoved this cultural entertainment out of people's lives. In the days of yore, the wayang kulit was a social occupier during weddings, births, circumcisions, homages to teachers etc. People gamely connected and looked forward to spending the evenings following epic stories as the dalang mesmerized them with his telling. What a twist of fate for the wayang kulit too. In 1990, there was a ban imposed on this theatre in the heartland of wayang kulit - the state of Kelantan! Some sense has prevailed for the ban has since been lifted. Hopefully this theatre will pick itself out of the doldrums with some serious practioners around to revive the glory days of the shadow play.
|Smaller puppets as souvenirs were snapped up|
|My friend Grace , up close with a huge Hanuman puppet|