TUMPAT: The intricate art of shaping and colouring puppets for the wayang kulit or shadow play has long been the domain of the men.
However, sisters Wan Siti Noor Adilah Wan Ismail, 18, and Wan Hasni, 21, from Kampung Gerong here have made a name for themselves in the trade.
And it all started as just a hobby. The sisters picked up the basics of making the puppets from their father, Wan Ismail Wan Kar, 55, a master shadow puppet maker in his own right.
Though “greenhorns” in this field, the two lasses have proven their talent and skills.
“It began in 2010 when I was waiting for my PMR examination results while Wan Hasni was waiting for her STPM results,” Wan Siti Noor Adilah told Bernama here recently.
At that time, their father was making shadow play puppets for the Kelantan Traditional Wayang Kulit Gallery in Kampung Morak, Kebakat here.
The gallery was operated by Muhammad Dain Othman, 61, who is also known as Pak Dain, a former Kelantan education technology division director and one of the country’s top wayang kulit puppeteers.
“Within days, I learnt to cut and shape out the puppets from my father. It is quite easy to make the cut-outs, but skills and concentration are needed for the fine finish,” said Wan Siti Noor Adilah, the third child of six siblings.
The former SMK Sungai Pinang student said the most difficult puppet to make was that of the Sri Rama character, as it involved intricate cuts and perforations.
The usual material used are cattle and goat hides. However, she is also required to make the puppets from a fragile plastic material, which could easily break during cutting and shaping.
Pak Dain, with a friend’s help, sources for plastic materials that can be shaped into shadow play puppets.
Pak Dain also employs four others to cut and shape the puppets.
While the younger sister has mastered the art of cutting out and perforating the puppets, Wan Hasni is skilled in colouring the figures.
The elder sister found the Sri Rama puppet the most difficult to handle, more so when the plastic material was used as the colours did not dry out fast compared with puppets made from cow or goat hides.
“I use a special technique to prevent the colours from appearing as bands when painted on the plastic puppets,” said Wan Hasni.
Pak Dain pays between RM50 and RM120 for the cutting and shaping of each puppet and between RM20 and RM50 for the painting job, depending on the size and character.
He receives orders from government agencies, such as the Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation (Kraftangan Malaysia) and Tourism Malaysia apart from overseas buyers who come to his workshop or through the website. — Bernama