BY LUCIA CHUNG
Though many people are familiar with Nightlife at the California Academy of Sciences (read the blog post here), for some reason only a privileged few seem to be privy to the Asian Art Museum’s after-hours event, Matcha, which takes place on select Thursdays from 5pm to 9pm throughout the year. During Matcha, you can enjoy everything the Asian Art Museum has to offer with a cocktail in your hand and a docent by your side. If you’re anything like me and you always need to fight the urge to touch the priceless pieces of ancient art (the museum has over 17,000 works), you’ll be happy to know that Matcha will mitigate some of your more inquisitive and extremely frowned-upon needs. With hands-on art classes, cooking demonstrations, and inspiring performances that will run shivers down your spine, these evenings are the perfect outlet for hyperactive art enthusiasts.
As the last in a series of Matcha events that have centered around the current Bali: Art, Ritual & Performance exhibit, the internationally acclaimed shadow puppeteer, I Wayan Wija, will be performing Wayang Tantri on August 18th at 6:30pm and 7:30pm. In Indonesia, shadow plays like this one are known as Wayang Kulit, an art form that was designated a “Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO in 2003. Kulit means “leather,” which is the material from which the puppets are fashioned, and wayang means “shadow” or “spirit.”
With the warm glow of a lamp providing the only source of light, the ornately detailed puppets are backlit against a screen. Traditionally, the dalang (puppet master) deftly maneuvers the puppets to tell stories that are centered on the epic Indian myth cycle, the Mahabharata, with gamelan orchestra accompaniment. Breaking with tradition, Wija’s Wayang Tantri will be a special treat, since he has chosen to perform a more light-hearted, original play based on the Panchatantra, a collection of animal fables. The “Tantri” in Wayang Tantri refers to the story’s female protagonist, who has taken up the task of educating a young king through her stories.
While Waji’s shadow play promises to be a delight, visitors should not pass up the chance to explore Bali: Art, Ritual & Performance in detail to gain a frame of reference for Wayang Tantri. Taken individually, each piece of the exhibit can be viewed as a resplendent work of craftsmanship and creative expression. However, in order for patrons to better understand the context behind these pieces, the docents will be on hand to explain the intertwined forces of art, performance and ritual in Balinese culture.
If you can’t make the August 18th Matcha performance, a special performance of Wayang Tantri will be held on August 25th at the museum, as well. Bali: Art, Ritual & Performance will be at the Asian Art Museum through September 11th.
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