Traditions of puppet theater in western Indonesia-wayang kulit, wayang golek, and wayang klithik-were once inseparable from communal rites and spirit beliefs and flourished in situations of collective creativity. With modernization and globalization, wayang puppet theaters have become media for moral guidance, secular entertainments, and symbols of local identity, and named artists (puppeteers as well as puppet makers) have become more prominent and assertive of individual agency. This talk, illustrated by puppets from the unmatched Dr. Walter Angst and Sir Henry Angest Collection of Indonesian Puppets at Yale University Art Gallery, explores the dynamics of collective and individual agency in wayang during the colonial and postcolonial periods as a reflex of the changing world.
Matthew Isaac Cohen, Ph.D. is Professor of International Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London and Institute of Sacred Music Fellow in Sacred Music, Worship, and the Arts at Yale University for the academic year 2018-2019. He is a leading expert on Indonesian performing arts and performs wayang on occasion under the company banner of Kanda Buwana.