Wayang kulit bookmark

Bookmark from 1919 (16.5 x 5.8 cm), published by the Department of Colonies for the third Jaarbeurs (Trade Fair) in Utrecht. Printed by L.E. Bosch & Zn. Utrecht, design: HR (unknown signature)

This bookmark was published in 1919 by the Dutch Department of Colonies in The Hague. It’s decorated with a wayang puppet (wajang kulit), monster head (kāla or karang) and the coats of arms of Batavia and the VOC.

Text on the back:

Het Departement van Koloniën
(4e Afdeeling) te ‘s-Gravenhage
verschaft kosteloos inlichtingen betreffende
landbouw, nijverheid en handel
van de Nederlandsche Koloniën:
Nederlandsch-Indië, Suriname en Curaçao
tijdens de Jaarbeurs te Utrecht.

Translation:

The Department of Colonies
(4th Section) in The Hague
provides free of charge information on
agriculture, industry and trade
of the Dutch Colonies:
Dutch East Indies, Suriname and Curaçao
during the Annual Trade Fair in Utrecht.

Wayang is a traditional form of puppet-shadow play in Bali, Java and Lombok. The word wayang (or wajang) means ‘shadow’ or ‘imagination’. In a wayang performance, the puppet figures are rear-projected on a taut linen screen with a coconut-oil light. The shadow artist (dalang) manipulates carved leather figures between the lamp and the screen to bring the shadows to life. People watch the show from both sides of the screen.

Traditionally, a wayang is played out in a ritualized midnight-to-dawn show. In Bali the play lasts a few hours. The dramatic stories depict mythologies, such as episodes from the Hindu epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, as well as local adaptations of cultural legends. The play is musically accompanied by four gender wayang players. The dalang does the singing. Balinese dalangs are often also priests (amangku dalang). As such, they may also perform during daylight, for religious purposes (wayang sakral or lemah).

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