Amir Sowan (Amir Pays His Respect): A Wayang Golek Menak Rod Puppet Play (Excerpts)

April 3, 2019

Wayang golek menak or “menak” rod puppet theatre is a form of traditional puppetry practiced in central Java, including Yogyakarta. It most likely originated in the nineteenth century, developing out of earlier puppet forms. The word menak refers in Javanese to the heroic and amorous adventures of the Islamic hero Amir Hamza, also known as Amir Ambyah or Wong Agung Menak (“Big Man” Menak), who is the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad w. The menak story cycle forms the core repertoire of wayang golek menak as a theatrical genre. These stories are of Arabic-Persian origin and known throughout the Islamic world. They were famously adapted into Javanese by the eighteenth-century court poet Yasadipura I. This multi-volume poetic redaction, known as the Serat Menak, is the standard source for wayang golek menak plays.

The performers in this wayang golek menak lecture-demonstration are Dr. Dewanto Sukistono (puppeteer), lecturer in pedalangan (puppetry) and Director of Studies for MA in Arts Management at Institut Seni Indonesia Yogyakarta (The Indonesian Institute of Arts in Yogyakarta) who was a Short-term Collections-based Fellow at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music researching the Dr. Walter Angst and Sir Henry Angest Collection of Indonesian Puppets in 2018, and Darsono Hadiraharjo (musician), who serves as the main drummer at the Mangkunegaran court of Solo, Central Java, and is currently a Visiting Scholar at Cornell University.