There are many ways to love Indonesia, says Gaura Mancacaritadipura, a well known shadow puppeteer and cultural expert.
Gaura, a former Australian citizen, fell in love with Indonesia when he first visited the country as a senior high school student in 1968.
“I traveled all over Java and I was very attracted to Indonesia because of the culture,” Gaura told the Jakarta Globe, prompting a second visit just two years later.
“It was the first time I saw Bali and I told myself that ‘this is home,’” Gaura said.
Born in Melbourne 57 years ago, Gaura left Australia to take up permanent residence in Indonesia in 1978.
Working as a freelance writer and consultants for various publications and organizations, his love for art spurred him to study many aspects of Indonesian culture, including traditional musical instruments.
Javanese leather puppets, or wayang, however, proved his greatest interest.
“I started studying wayang in 1997. It was so intriguing for me because wayang is very noble and very beautiful,” Gaura said.
It took him seven years to fully master the art, which also required him to learn Javanese and master the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata.
“It’s not easy to learn wayang, especially in the beginning. The music, the language, it is definitely a challenge,” he said.