Leather puppet shows, locally called Wayang Kulit, are one of the ancient art performances of Bali. The puppet show is not merely a performance but also a media to spread religious teachings, positive moral value and important information about social and even environmental problems. During Bali’s early years, puppet shows used to be performed only on a special religious occasion to entertain the congregation, these day puppet shows are also performed commercially whilst also upholding culture and performing at religious ceremonies.
There are two types of leather puppet show in Bali, which are Wayang Lemah and Wayang Peteng. Wayang Lemah is the show performed during the day, while Wayang Peteng is a shadow puppet show. Wayang Lemah, also called Wayang Gedog, is performed without a screen (kelir) and lighting (blencong). While performing with the puppets, the puppet master (dalang) sticks the puppets into the stump of a banana tree, where a long white thread is attached from one end to another. Then the dalang takes each of the character one by one.
Wayang Lemah is performed only on a religious occasion, such as temple celebration, otonan-birthday rituals, house blessing ceremonies and other rituals. The performance can be only to entertain the congregation or the invited guest, but sometimes it is a main part of the ceremony. Normally, before conducting a ceremony, the host will ask about the requirement of the ceremony from a priest (pemangku). The pemangku will meditate in order to connect with the ancestor of the host and when the pemangku gets connected, he’ll receive information about what should be done for the ceremony. Wayang performance can be one of the prerequisite.
Gender Wayang, which is a Balinese traditional instrument of five notes, accompanies the performance of Wayang Lemah. The story depicted is often about the epic of Mahabrata. Unlike the shadow puppet show that can take place from evening to mid-night, Wayang Lemah is quite short, it is usually performed only for one or two hours depending on the ceremony.