July 28, 2016
This mid-to late 20th century shadow puppet is currently on display in our Musical Narratives of the Southwest Pacific Rim exhibit, which explores the performing arts of the Southwest Pacific Rim thorough musical instruments, masks, puppets, and dance costumes from Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Samoa.
These shadow puppets often portray characters from Hindu epics, such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata. This particular Indonesian puppet represents the character Arjuna in the Mahabharata, the longest Indian epic. Arjuna, one of the 5 Pandava brothers, is one of the protagonists of the epic and is known for his skill in archery. Puppeteers provide the movement, voice, and sound effects for the character. The show is often accompanied by a small gamelan performance, a traditional instrumental ensemble of Indonesia. Video of a performance is included in the exhibit.