JOHOR BARU: Making wayang kulit puppets is a dying craft and Sapari Sukarjo is worried the skills will soon be forgotten.
Sapari, who is among the last remaining traditional wayang kulit craftsmen in the state, blames the television and electronic entertainment for the decline of the centuries-old art form.
The third-generation craftsman said wayang kulit was one of the main sources of entertainment during religious festivals and other events such as wedding, birth and circumcision.
“People used to come from all over to watch the show. Nowadays they are reluctant to pay to watch. It costs about RM3,000 for an eight-hour show,” said Sapari, 51.
He pointed out that each show would have one puppet master and 14 musicians who play various musical instruments.
The stories usually impart good moral values and depict certain folklore characters, including from the Indian epics of Ramayana dan Mahabrata.
Sapari, who owns Safis Art Enterprise at the Johor Craft Complex in Jalan Cenderasari, makes his wayang kulit using goat skin and produces about 10 each week.
The father of four sells each puppet for between RM10 and RM300 depending on the size.
“Most of my customers are locals or Singaporeans who use these puppets for decoration,” he said.
Sapari is currently grooming his 16-year-old son to take over the family business.
“It’s a slow process and it will take some time before he gets everything right,” he said.
He hopes the craft will remain in the family and will continue to be passed down.
Sapari organises at least three wayang kulit education classes every month at his outlet, but so far the response has been poor.
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