Exhibition: Cosmic Characters: Wood Puppets of Asia


This is a listing of older East-West Center events (newer listed first).  See Events to get the list of current or upcoming events.

When: Jan 20 2019 (All day) until May 5 2019 (All day)
Where: East-West Center Gallery, John A. Burns Hall, 1601 East-West Road (corner Dole St. & East-West Rd.)

Cosmic Characters: Wood Puppets of Asia














Guest Curator: Dr. Annie Reynolds

Gallery Curator: Dr. Michael Schuster

Installation Design: Lynne Najita

Coordinator: Eric Chang


Exhibition: January 20 – May 5, 2019

East-West Center Gallery, Honolulu, Hawai‘i

Click here for exhibition handout.

Puppet theatre presents the entire cosmos through character, color, story, sound, and movement. Distinct traditions are found throughout the Asia Pacific region, many of which have been influenced by shamanism, animism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Local folklore is also incorporated and puppet performances are closely related to human dance-drama and mask dances. In many Asia Pacific cultures, puppeteers are associated with unseen, mystical, and divine powers as they animate a whole world created in miniature. This exhibition focuses on the three-dimensional wood puppets that demonstrate the following techniques: string puppets (marionettes), rod (stick) puppets, and glove (hand) puppets.

Through these performance forms stories come to life including the Hindu epics of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, Buddhist Jataka stories, and the chronicles and well-known Monkey King novel found in Chinese theatre traditions, as well as local folk stories. Indonesian puppetry also tells the arrival of Islam to Indonesia through the story of Amir Hamzah. Many of these puppet traditions are historically related to the royal courts, while other performances are derived from village performances. Even with roots in the royal courts, puppet performance is intended for the common people, instilling, re-informing, and enriching their lives with locally-based cultural values and beliefs. Puppet performance in Asia is appreciated and enjoyed by diverse audiences — from children to elders — with entertaining elements ranging from slapstick humor to deep, rich life philosophies and religious teachings.

More than 10 unique traditions from India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan are displayed. To honor our host culture, Hawaiian puppets are featured. These performance traditions are a place of intersection — a bridge between the past, present, and future — where the divine and human worlds meet and ancient stories are made relevant for the contemporary experience.

Special Events

In the EWC Gallery with free admission, open seating, no reservations

Guided exhibition tours will be offered Sundays at 3:00 p.m.

Sunday, January 20, 2:00–3:30 p.m.

Exhibition Gala Opening including reception, gallery walkthrough with the curators, and special Wayang Golek Panji performance by Dr. Kathy Foley and music accompaniment by I Made Widana and Oriana Filiaci

Sunday, January 27, 2:00–3:00 p.m.

Illustrated Talk: “The Living Hula Ki‘i: Hawaiian Puppetry” by Aulii Mitchell, Kumu Hula of Halau o Kahiwahiwa and Cultural Anthropologist/Advisor for Cultural Surveys Hawai‘i Inc.

Sunday, February 24, 2:00–3:00 p.m.

Illustrated Talk: “45 Years as a Puppeteer” by Dr. Michael Schuster, East-West Center Gallery Curator

Sunday, March 31, 2:00–3:00 p.m.

Illustrated Talk: “Puppetry in Iran” by Maseeh Ganjali

Sunday, April 7, 2:00–3:00 p.m.

Illustrated Talk: “Holding Infinity in the Palm, Wayang Potehi: Chinese Glove Puppet Theatre in Indonesia” by Yuan- Hsin Tung, PhD Student in Ethnomusicology, UH Mānoa, EWC Student Affiliate

Sunday, April 28, 2:00–3:00 p.m.

Illustrated Talk: “From Stage Adaptation to Educational Outreach: Balinese Shadow Theatre Performance in Hawai‘i” by Dr. Kirstin Pauka, Professor of Theatre, UH Mānoa; Nezia Azmi, Affiliate Consultant, CSEAS; and Dr. Annie Reynolds, EWC Arts Program Assistant

Saturday, May 4, 2:00–3:30 p.m.

Puppet Making Workshop (inspired by bunraku Japanese doll puppets) with Dmitri Carter, Director, Northwest Puppet Center. Registration required, inquire for details at arts@eastwestcenter.org

Sunday, May 5, 2:00–3:00 p.m.

Illustrated Talk: “An Introduction to Festival Karakuri in Japan” by Dmitri Carter

East-West Center Gallery

John A. Burns Hall, 1601 East-West Road

(corner Dole St. & East-West Rd.)


Gallery admission is free

Hours: Open Weekdays 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

and Sundays Noon–4:00 p.m.

Closed Saturdays, and Jan. 21, Feb. 18, Apr. 21

Parking on the UH Mānoa campus is normally

free and ample on Sundays.

Free school & group tours available.

For further information: 944-7177




Primary Contact Info:
Phone: 944-7177