rukada (String Puppet)

About this object

History of use

Lifelike in appearance, the striking rukada (string puppets) of Sri Lanka perform stories about ritual practices and everyday life. There is no scripted play, the puppeteers improvise in their storytelling. The characters, in dress, gesture, and action, express social hierarchies and gender roles: the king and the prince; the politician and the village headman; the policeman and the servant boy; and a family of farmers. There are also character archetypes such as the sanmi (disease) demon dancer, emaciated beggar with elephantiasis, and jesters in colourful costumes who comically announce the beginning and end of the show. (from Shadow, Strings & Other Things, 2019)

Physical description

Three-dimensional male humanoid puppet (jester character): head (part b) fits into body clothed in a shirt and pants with floral print and multicolored pom-poms and a short red skirt (part a). The body has jointed arms and legs. The figure's head, hands and feet are painted pink, and the figure has long hair and a beard of undyed plant fibre. The figure is holding a stick with orange-brown feathers in his right hand.