Thursday, December 25, 2014

Shadow Puppet Nativity

One unique Indonesia art form is the shadow puppet play. Intricate puppets cut out of leather are danced around behind a white screen reenacting scenes from Hindu epic tales like the Ramayana. I witnessed one such performance in 1977 when my companion and I traveled to a remote village in East Java to offer a priesthood blessing to the ailing mother of one of our Surabaya branch members. While there we got to see a wayang kulit (puppet of skin) performance as part of the entertainment for a Muslim wedding. The dalang (puppeteer) (middle right behind the white pole in the photo bellow) dances the puppets across the screen while singing the story from the Ramayana. His backup band is a gamalen of xylophones and gongs. These performances can go on for hours.

Last night at the Tueller Christmas eve gathering at the home of Marie's sister Diane and her husband Lant's we performed our own version of a puppet play. Diane and Lant lived in Indonesia for two years about 10 years ago. Marie's oldest sister Jan and her husband Win lived in Jakarta for 13 years. That plus my mission service and our honeymoon there meant that many of the participants in the nativity were very familiar with shadow puppets. Director Diane divided us in to seven groups of 2-3 people and then gave us each a scene from the nativity to perform. We had to come up with the actions, costumes and props. We could use our bodies as human shadow puppets or we could use cutouts of construction paper. It turned out to be a delightful performance.

Here are many of the participants--singing and playing in a pipe choir/band.

The annunciation (haloed Gabriel on the right)

Expectant Mary (aunt Diane)

Annunciation to Joseph (played by Sarah) by Gabriel (played by Marie) that Joseph should marry Mary. Joseph agrees and gives two thumbs up.

The holy family (with rocking horse as a donkey) visits three different inns searching for a place to stay.

The birth of Jesus.

Mary, Jesus and Joseph.

An angel (center) visits the shepherds.

The angel (grandma Tueller) exits stage right while the shepherds agree to go and visit baby Jesus.

Will as all three wisemen follows the star (Joel).

and comes and worships the baby.

Mary (Aunt Jan dancing in excellent Indonesian dancing form) ponders in her heart what has happened: the annunciation;

Marriage to Joseph;

The birth of Jesus.

The visit of the Shepherds.

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