As you might know by now, our annual Raya fashion show called ZALORAYA will move forward with a theme of wayang kulit. Wayang kulit is a form of traditional art which has spread through across Southeast Asia. This art tells a story through the shadows of puppets with interesting designs which resembles a human character.
Tintoy Chuo, founder of Fusion Wayang Kulit takes an interesting approach to this art. He blends in modern characters like superheroes from both DC and Marvel universes, “Star Wars” characters, public figures, and many more. Here, we have him for ZALORAYA where he created three of the most influential fashion designers who are Rizalman, Syomirizwa, and Tom Abang Saufi. So, we sat down with him to talk more about Fusion Wayang Kulit and what inspires him to fight for the art of wayang kulit in Malaysia.
1. So tell us, how did Fusion Wayang Kulit started?
It started back in 2012 when we were invited to an art exhibition. We wanted to try to do something traditional that is related to our culture but different in a way. So, I was searching around for inspiration and found that wayang kulit is suitable for me. This is because I am a character designer myself and wayang kulit relies heavily on characters or ‘watak’. Initially, I didn’t want to do a traditional wayang kulit theme since it is done before. So, I applied something different, and at that time, I infused “Star Wars” into my wayang kulit art.
2. Why “Star Wars” specifically?
I chose “Star Wars” because generally, the property is known for its futuristic elements. So, I combined the futuristic components that can be found in “Star Wars” into traditional wayang kulit art. I named this project “Peperangan Bintang”.
3. How was the reception back then?
The response towards it was very good. We got a lot of interviews locally and internationally regarding that project. Also, on that same year, I was fortunate enough to meet the master puppeteer himself, Tok Dalang Muhammad Dain Othman and worked together to produce the first fusion wayang kulit performance. Since then, we continue working on some other different characters from famous science fiction movies.
4. Why did you land on wayang kulit as your artistic medium?
I am a character designer and wayang kulit has characters in it which is easier for me to relate to as opposed to other traditional art like batik or wood cutting, which I am not familiar with.
5. Is there a reason or a criterion when choosing your characters?
When we started with “Star Wars”, it was basically because I am a huge fan of the franchise. Then, I wanted something that is very opposite from the traditional feel of wayang kulit. I wanted elements that are not typical to wayang kulit like laser guns, laser swords, and spaceships which I think is interesting to do.
6. How long would it take to create one character?
Ideally would be around three weeks. The process starts with sketches of the character. I need to find a way to make it different from its original design. I need to study what it does as a character, his likeness; all these elements are put into consideration. So, when the design is done, I’ll pass it to the Tok Dalang to seek his opinion and approval which will take a while. After he has approved, then I’ll start to trace the final drawings with more added floral patterns on it. Once that is done, I will send for cutting which will take around three days. Finally, I will colour it for approximately two days tops.
7. If there is one movie you could do entirely in wayang kulit form, what would it be?
I have been thinking about making the entire “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” movie as we have only done a portion of it in our performance.
8. Honestly speaking, wayang kulit is a dying in Malaysia. In your opinion, how do you think we can preserve this art?
Yes, sadly it is. There are a lot of people who are trying to do something about this problem. But for me, my direction of helping this art is to do the fusion way. Because, while there are some people who still enjoy traditional wayang kulit, the youth of this generation kind of lost interest towards it. So, if I convert traditional wayang kulit into something like “Star Wars” and DC superhero characters, the youth can relate to it because they understand who they are.
Another way is to do a crossover. Wayang kulit isn’t just as it is. It can be coupled with other categories like what we are doing now with ZALORA for this year’s ZALORAYA. So, with a medium that a lot of youth understands like ZALORA, this will enable them to see wayang kulit even more.
9. Speaking of crossovers, do you think wayang kulit could mix well with fashion, like the theme of this year’s ZALORAYA?
Why not? You see, fashion is interesting as it can bring a lot of different things to it. So, wayang kulit is definitely something that can be applied to because of the elements like colours, patterns, and shapes. Of course, I believe that wayang kulit and fashion can blend well together.
10. Any future projects that we can look forward to from Fusion Wayang Kulit?
Apart from the upcoming ZALORAYA, I am doing something for the Batman 80th Anniversary with new wayang kulit versions of Batman together with my previous Batmans that I have created. So, stay tuned for that!
For more pictures and an in-depth look on how Tintoy operates his wayang kulit, you can check @fusionwayangkulit on Facebook and Instagram where he posts all of the different wayang kulits that he has created.