Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival Preview - Flamenco Puro and Tri Suwarno

Oct 30, 2013

The 41st annual Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival is taking place this weekend in Downtown Pensacola. 500 artists applied for the festival’s art show this year. Of those, 209 were selected. Twenty local artists from Spanish Fort to Navarre will have their work on display.

The festival also features performance artists such as Flamenco Puro, a dance company based in Miami, FL. Flamenco dancer and instructor Clarita Filgueiras is the company’s founder. Her grandmother was a professional flamenco singer and her father was an aficionado of flamenco singing. She began dancing when she was seven and has been performing since. An excerpt from one of Flamenco Puro’s performances can be seen here:

Flamenco is a traditional folk art from the south of Spain. Elements of the Spanish, Arabic and Gypsy cultures are present in the singing, the costumes, and the dance. Flamenco can be performed as a group dance or solo. Three dancers will perform on Saturday and Sunday night at the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival. Filgueiras says she enjoys the opportunity to share her love of flamenco with others who enjoy it.

This year’s International Invited Artist at the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival is Tri Suwarno, a wayang kulit shadow puppet maker. A native of the Indonesian island of Java, his father and grandfather also made puppets, and he began making puppets as a teenager.

GGAF 2013's International Invited Artist Tri Suwarno with his shadow puppet version of the Hindu god Krishna
Credit Katya Ivanov / WUWF Public Media

“Wayang” is Javanese for “shadow” and “kulit” means “skin,” which refers to the materials used to construct the puppets. They are made from water buffalo hide and their handles are made from buffalo horn.

In the wayang tradition, performances traditionally begin at 9pm and last until 4am. Only one puppeteer operates all of the puppets in a show. There are two hundred characters in the canon of stories, and the puppeteer and uses a different voice for each. He sits in front of a screen with a light overhead, so the audience only sees the silhouettes of the puppets. Wayang puppet shows are always accompanied by live performance of gamelan, traditional Indonesian music. A sample of a show can be seen here:

Each character has its own coloring and style. The personality of characters is indicated by the color of their faces. For example, characters that have black faces have spiritual powers in the story. Suwarno makes puppets for puppeteers and collectors. He says that some people collect characters which symbolize attributes that they like, such as wisdom, and hang them on their front doors. His favorite character is Kamajaya, the Hindu god of love. He will be crafting puppets for the public to observe at his festival booth near the gazebo in Seville Square Park.

The festival opens at 9am each day on Friday November 1 through Sunday November 3. More information is available online at ggaf.org.