The Dr. Walter Angst and Sir Henry Angest Collection of Indonesian Puppets
Ruth Barnes, the inaugural Thomas Jaffe Curator of Indo-Pacific Art, is pleased to announce that Yale University Art Gallery recently received the largest collection of Indonesian puppets and related material ever given to a collecting institution: 166 complete sets of wayang puppets from Java, Bali and Lombok are coming as a donation to the Gallery. Each set has between 50 and 250 individual puppets. The exact number still needs to be assessed, but it is likely to exceed 20,000. There are two main groups, wayang kulit (kulit = Indonesian/Javanese for ‘skin, hide’), which are played in the famous shadow puppet performances, and wayang golek (three-dimensional puppets with wooden heads and arms and stick bodies covered by clothing), used in open stage narrative enactments. A small third group consists of flat wooden puppets (wayang klitik). Sweeping in scope, the collection contains all elements needed to perform complete narratives such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata stories and represents regional iconographic variations found throughout western Indonesia. Bringing the collection to Yale University immediately creates the potential for a center for cultural and academic research related to wayang, which is at the core of Western Indonesian cultures. The collection will become a draw for scholarly research and heritage preservation of one of Indonesia’s most cherished performance traditions.