Wayang Kulit is the traditional Malay shadow puppet theatre. ‘Wayang’ means play, while ‘kulit’ means skin, the latter referring to the leather—usually that of a goat—from which the puppets are made. The term Wayang Kulit encompasses a number of related art forms. Wayang are accompanied by singing, cries and shouts from the musicians, and the sound of cymbals and drums. Wayang incorporates elements of literature, music, painting, handicraft, and drama. Highly ritualised, a 'dalang' or puppet master must also perform the proper rites associated with shadow theatre.
When making the puppets, Mohd Juffry stresses that the right leather must be chosen. The leather made from the skin of a four-year-old male goat is usually ideal in terms of texture and strength. The skin is stretched on a frame, tanned, and scraped until it is almost translucent. The puppet design is traced onto the leather, cut and painted. Bamboo sticks are attached to the puppet to allow it to be manipulated by the dalang. The puppets are decorated with intricate perforations and painted in various colours which are evident even through the screen.
Hailing from Kelantan, Mohd Jufry Yusoff, born 1961, learned the art of shadow puppetry from a dalang named Mamat Semail from 1966 to 1970. He performed as a musician and soon mastered all the instruments used in Wayang. In the early 1980s, he moved to Penang with his uncle and pursued further studies in traditional arts. Since 1983, he has been a cultural artist with the Universiti Sains Malaysia. From 1985, he has been an instructor for the Wayang Kulit Kelantan and at the USM School of Arts. He has been showcasing this traditional performance all across the country, both in the East and on the Peninsula.
Eventually, his talent and expertise in this art form paid off when he was chosen to introduce Malay culture overseas through performance such as Wayang Kulit Kelantan, Gamelan, and Muzik Asli. At one point, he was even selected to lead a group of Malaysian dancers to represent traditional Malay performance in the International Festival of Folklore of Dijon in France.