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The Puppet Master

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Muhammad Dain bin Othman, Tok Dalang

Kota Bahru, 2012

I met Pak Dain under the most inauspicious circumstances. It was late at night on the day of his father’s funeral but he kept the appointment because he knew I had come all the way from Kuala Lumpur to meet him.

Pak Dain has devoted his life to wayang kulit or shadow play. He is not just a practitioner but also an author, researcher, teacher and all-round champion of this traditional Malay artform. A graduate in anthropology from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, he also studied under three renowned puppet grandmasters or Tok Dalang. Today, he is a Tok Dalang in his own right and has been named Seniman Negara or National Artiste.

In 2008, he set up the Kelantan Malay Traditional Shadow Play gallery and performing troupe. The gallery represents his life’s work, as it showcases the entire history of wayang kulit through collections, documentation and live performances.

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