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Old 8th September 2019, 11:25 PM   #16
A. G. Maisey
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Join Date: May 2006
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I'm very sorry that you feel like this Gustav, but I do understand your frustration, it is a frustration that can arise when a foreign word is used mixed in with a different language. This is certainly a difficulty, and I'll try to clarify that, but I would most respectfully ask you to read my explanation of the word "wayang" and consider if what I have written is at variance with what you have written.

In fact, my understanding of the meaning of the word "wayang" is not at all as you have summarised it in your post #15.

I feel, that a large part of your frustration could be caused by a simple misunderstanding of the actual meaning of the word "wayang", and the way in which it can be used. I did try to clear this up in my previous post #14, but my explanation is buried in text, and it might easily have been missed, here it is again:-

However there are many other different ways of presenting those stories, some use the painted puppet in front of the screen, some use other puppets of various forms, sometimes a scroll with illustrations can be used, sometimes the story is told by human players, and this last is "Wayang Wong".

Wayang is story telling with illustrative assistance.


In essence, "wayang" is theatre, and just as with the English word "theatre", it can be used with an adjective to indicate the type of wayang that is being referred to. The word "wayang" is Javanese and it existed in Old Javanese, where the primary meaning is "pertunjukan", that is to say "a performance" but Zoetmulder qualifies this and specifies:-

"pertunjukan ( dramatik) yang didalamnya disajikan cerita (dengan boneka-boneka, oleh penari)

in English this means:-

"a dramatic performance that contains a presentation of a story, using dolls or puppets, or by a dancer" (the word "boneka can be understood as either "doll" or "puppet").

This is the meaning of the word "wayang", as it was understood in Old Javanese.

Modern Javanese seemed to develop from around the end of the 16th century, and it is common practice to regard Javanese used prior to this as Old Javanese, but in technical terms, Old Javanese was already adopting a new form during the Majapahit era, so purist linguists hold that the period between Majapahit and Mataram was the period in which Middle Javanese was used. Middle Javanese is the transitional phase between Old Javanese and Modern Javanese.

In Modern Javanese the word "wayang" is ngoko, the krama word is "ringgit". When used in the absence of an adjective, both these words can be understood to mean either the puppet used in a shadow-play, or the shadow-play itself. In Modern Javanese there are at least 17 commonly used adjectives that when combined with the word "wayang" will convey a specific meaning of the word wayang.

The word "wayang" has come into Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia), and in this language, when used alone, it can mean either a shadow play, a leather puppet, or a traditional drama performance. As with Modern Javanese there is a plethora of adjectives that can be used with the word "wayang" to indicate the way in which the word is to be understood, of course, in normal colloquial usage the adjectives are not required if the meaning and/or intent is already clear from the context.

The most common usage of "wayang" when it is used to refer to puppet is in reference to a leather puppet, strictly, the leather puppet should be referred to as "wayang kulit", but because in Indonesian a leather puppet will be intended to be understood 99.9% of the time, it is common practice to drop the adjective "kulit" when referring to a puppet.

If we go to the glossary of Kinney's "Worshipping Siva & Buddha", which you appear to be drawing upon quite heavily, we find that the meaning of the word "wayang" is given as:-

"wayang (kulit) Javanese shadow play with leather puppets (kulit means "leather" in Javanese) "

So even here we see the meaning of "wayang" given as "shadow play", and when the adjective "kulit" is added, we have "shadow play with leather puppets".

Perhaps Gustav, you can now understand that that your characterisation of my understanding is in fact quite erroneous.

The Common Man

I wrote the above earlier this morning, over coffee, whilst I was having breakfast. Later in the morning I had two visitors, both native speakers of Javanese, now living in Australia, one is a retired accountant, the other is a retired public servant, neither of these people is an artistic nor culturally aligned person, both just ordinary people getting on with their lives and more interested in soap operas and yesterday's game of golf, than in shadow plays than the traditional culture of Jawa.

Because I'd just finished writing the above, wayang & etc was at the front of my mind, so I ran a question past them:-

"Tell me, if I say the word "wayang" to you, what is the thought that comes into your mind?"

Both gave answers in the same vein, one said, more or less:-

"Wayang? Just by itself? Impossible, what is the rest of the sentence? My first thought is just who is the wayang? Who is being manipulated?"

The other person said:- "That's just somebody standing there, doing nothing, waiting to be told what to do"

This was the way these two people thought of the word "wayang", a puppet, somebody who is manipulated and ordered around by somebody else. I should have remembered this when I was writing the above. To many people in the higher classes, and many people who are grass roots Javanese, the wayang is an integral part of their lives, but to ordinary middle class people who one might say are culturally unconscious, the wayang is part of another world, these people think of the word "wayang" as a derogatory description of somebody who is manipulated. For example, many politicians are referred to as "wayang".

There is perhaps a very timely message in this.
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