Matthew Isaac Cohen, Professor of International Theatre in the Department of Drama, Theatre and Dance, has been granted the royal name, Ki Dalang Bawana (Honorable Puppeteer of the World), by Sultan Sepuh XIV of Keraton Kasepuhan. The award was bestowed upon Matthew at the beginning of his wayang kulit tour in Java, for his dedication in advancing and preserving Cirebon-style shadow puppet theatre.
Photo Credit: Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan
The tour, which ran from 27 July to 8 August, saw puppeteer Matthew along with gamelan musicians from Cirebon (West Java) and the UK, including Royal Holloway alumna, Katie Bruce, perform the traditional wayang kulit art form in ten different locations throughout the north coast of the Indonesian island. The tour was sponsored by the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture, along with the cooperation of local governments and the Pepadi puppeteer union of Cirebon.
Speaking of the tour, Matthew said: “It was a remarkable process for us all – involving much learning and exploration together, meeting the public, travel and encountering diverse ways that wayang is consumed and experienced.
“Each location was very distinct. We performed in small remote villages, in a grand palace, a public park and a huge public square. And in each location, we also got a glimpse of local art forms presented as pre-wayang entertainment.
“I felt hugely honored to be at the centre of this whirlwind – supported by the massive efforts of employees of the directorate of culture in the Ministry of Education and Culture, local governments and cultural workers and above all my friend and colleague, Ki Dalang Purjadi, who heads Cirebon’s Pepadi chapter and is himself an amazing puppeteer.”