Cultural Heritage and Museums Lecture Series

Negotiating Living Tradition and Cultural Heritage:

Indonesian Wayang Puppetry in Museum Contexts

Dr. Matthew Isaac Cohen

Prof. of International Theatre, Royal Holloway, Univ. of London

Visiting Senior Fellow, Yale University Art Gallery


Wednesday, November 15 at 4:30 pm

David Friend Hall, Yale Peabody Museum

Refreshments will be served


Despite claims of its endangerment presented in its 2003 nomination to UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, wayang (Indonesian puppetry) remains very much a living and changing art in Western Indonesia, practiced in both traditional and modern, or post-traditional, forms. This talk assesses the role museums play in furthering the development of the art form in relation to their function of preserving the past or reifying dominant discourses about the tradition.


Dr. Cohen will discuss four cases in reference to this: the Raffles collection in the British Museum; the Chan family wayang collection in Simon Fraser University in Vancouver; a revival of the anti-colonial wayang Suluh at a Jakarta museum using replicas of puppets repatriated from the Netherlands; and Rumah Wayang 2, a small museum in Tegal curated by the politician, puppeteer, and Islamic preacher Ki Enthus Susmono.


Sponsored by the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, the Council on Southeast Asia Studies, and the Yale Peabody Museum. With special thanks to the Yale University Department of Anthropology and the Yale Archaeological Studies Program.