Out of the Shadows - Wayang

Author:Sylvie Castonguay
Position:WIPO Magazine Editorial Team, Communications and Public Outreach Division

New Mouthpiece for IP.


Many traditional forms of cultural expression and folklore, passed down from one generation to the next over hundreds, and even thousands of years, are under threat of disappearance today. Globalization has brought new cultural influences, technology new means of communication, and young people have discarded traditional ways as they venture into cities and are absorbed into the mass culture. Elders pass away, and knowledge is lost forever. Some communities are seeking to record their cultural heritage on paper or film, others to preserve it in museums and still others are adapting their cultural expressions to modern society, giving them new life. The Indonesian art of wayang - or shadow puppet theater - is a good example.

Wayang, designated a UNESCO Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2003, is well over 1,000 years old - predating Indonesian written history. It began as a ceremony for calling departed spirits by hanging coconut oil lamps and casting shadows on a wall. Wayang was adapted as a tool for performances in the ninth and tenth centuries when Hindu communities used it to present the great Ramayana and Mahabharata epics, then evolved further in the Middle Ages when it was used to educate audiences on Islamic themes. Although many forms of wayang have disappeared, there exist over 60 variations of the art form in Indonesia alone. It is used for ceremony, spiritual uplifting, entertainment, education - and most recently for spreading the word about intellectual property (IP) rights.

New Mouthpiece for IP

When the Directorate General of Intellectual Property Rights (DGIPR) of Indonesia set the creation of public awareness campaigns as a strategic objective in 2005, high school students and SMEs were defined as important target audiences. How could they...

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