Object of the Month – April 2024

The Museum’s ‘Object of the Month’ provides an opportunity to explore interesting and unusual objects from our stores. 

This month’s Object of the Month, has been chosen by Dr Tracey Black, who has recently joined our team as a collections volunteer working on an audit of our world cultures collections.

April’s Object of the Month is a Wayang (shadow) Kulit (skin/leather) puppet, from Java, Indonesia. It is made from dried water buffalo hide, which has been intricately painted.

Shadow puppetry using these types of flat, leather puppets originated in south India before the 10th century and probably spread to Java with Hinduism. It has a bone handle and would once would have had moveable arms connected by a rod.

The dhalang (puppeteer) used these rods to manipulate the puppets behind a translucent screen (like a sheet), which was lit from behind.

Their popular night-time puppetry performances lasted for several hours and were accompanied by a percussion gamelan orchestra.

This puppet was collected in 1840 and represents Hanuman, the Hindu god, who is half human and half monkey. Hanuman possesses great strength, and he plays an important role in the Ramayana helping legendary Prince Rama rescue his wife Sita from the demon king Ravana.

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