Friday, January 22, 2010

'Dalang bule' in the news... again

An article about me appeared titled 'Dalang Bule Ki Matthew Cohen' (Albino Puppeteer Ki Matthew Cohen) appeared in Kabari, an Indonesian-language monthly that describes itself as an 'information bridge between Indonesia and Amerika' See

The information was collected by the reporter, Yayat Suratmo, via the www and email, and as I didn't see it before it went to press there are a number of factual inaccuracies.

The 'dalang bule' label which was bandied about in the Yogyakarta press seems to persist. It's not one that I like, for obvious reasons. A legend has it that the designaton of 'bule' for Caucasians was started by Ben Anderson when he was living in Jakarta in the 1960s. It was meant humorously at the time, but since has been used in a racist or racialist manner.

A google search reveals that the following puppeteers have been described as 'dalang bule':

- Gaura Mancacaritadipura (an Australian who became an Indonesian citizen some years ago, who lives in Jakarta and is active in Senawangi and a number of heritage organisations (see

- Larry Reed (a San Francisco-based puppeteer, puppet director and film maker with long experience performing as a Balinese dalang and best known for his massive wayang spectacles)

- Tamara Fielding (a New York-based puppeteer, born in West Java of Eurasian descent, who performs her own idiosyncratic version of wayang in community settings, cruise ships and the like)

There are also, of course, references to the various 'dalang bule' who control Indonesian politics - in various articles by conspiracy theorists.

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