Indonesia Banget #6: Topeng Monyet

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It’s the 17th day of January…that only means 1 thing! Its time for my monthly post on things found (hopely) only in Indonesia.

I believe everybody knows about snake dance in India but no one knows that we also have animal show, not with snake but with monkey 🙂

This month I am going to talk about Topeng Monyet. Topeng means mask and monyet means Monkey, so…literally Topeng Monyet means Monkey Mask…but I kinda think that it’ll be better to translate it as Monkey Circus as it is showing monkey doing some tricks to entertain people. This small circus is same with street performance. Street performance in Indonesia is different than street performance in developed country, the performers will come from house to house or area to area instead of waiting in one spot and hoping people will notice them. Some do stay in one spot but mostly they will walk around suburban area.

The show is called topeng monyet because sometimes, the monkey will perform using a mask on its face. The performers usually consist of 2-4 people and 1 monkey. They will carry some percussion as back ground music during the monkey’s performance. The monkey is tied to a long chain controlled by the people. It has to be chained because they couldn’t let the monkey suddenly attacks the watcher. Their targeted watchers are small children.

They will direct the monkey to do some tricks like riding a small motorcycle, walking around with a mask on its face, dragging a rickshaw and even praying like Muslim. The performer prepares a small sajadah for the monkey to do Sholat (Muslim’s way of praying). The monkey is always wearing cloth.

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The show can be entertaining, especially for children…I used to like it too when I was a kid…but now, I feel so sorry for the monkey 😦 When I took these pictures, I felt so sad, when the monkey refused to act, the owner will snap at the chain to keep it going. I couldn’t say that it is a 100% animal cruelty because it’s just like any other animal show in the world…but still, my heart goes to those monkeys.

The performer will try to find places where there is full of kids. They will try to find a space to do the performance and call for attention by playing their traditional instrument. When the performance is over, they will come to each kids (and of course, their parents) to ask for money, they will accept anything because they do not put a tag price for their performance.

The monkey and the equipment such as the instrument and things that will be used by the monkey are usually rented. The performer will pay to the owner a certain amount of money.

I found this video in youtube,it belongs to Damabening

Previous Indonesia Banget : Kerokan (One of Indonesian Traditional Folk-cures)


    1. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the picture when the monkey was wearing the mask. I was carrying my nephew at that time and he won’t stay still.

  1. :((

    I really, really don’t like animals (on chains too) having to perform acts for people. I’m even sponsoring a refuge for former circus bears, called ‘Bear Woods’. Next to it being abnormal, most of these animals are treated badly — and not just when having to learn their tricks but for their whole life. Makes me so sad. But it’s not something we should ignore happening, so good that you’ve posted about it!

    1. As I said in my opening post for Indonesia Banget…I will write the good and the bad things in Indonesia. This is the bad part 😦

      I have to admit that before having my own pets, I didn’t care much for animals…but things change when start loving my pets like my own child. It’s sad seeing how they sometimes force the monkeys to do their tricks.
      Unfortunately, there are a lot of them (the Topeng Monyet performers).

  2. As interesting as I found your post it did make me sad as well… But it is the same evrywhere… Doesn’t make it better though.
    I think it is great what Gnoe does for the bears. Very, very admirable.

    1. This kinda performance is like a two sides blade (I’m not sure if this is the right provebs) .. if we want to save the monkeys, those people will have no income for their family as it is very difficult to find job here.

      I think it’s a great thing that Gnoe has done something for the bear…in fact I always admire everyone that spends their time to save animals.

  3. I used to like this as a child but I’m with Gnoe (and you share this as well) that it makes me sad to see animals having to do this. So yeah, like you said, my heart goes to those monkeys 😦

  4. Do you think Topeng Monyet is increasing in numbers? I would’ve thought they’re diminishing. I haven’t seen one for ages (not that I’m in the country…) I used to like the show too, but now the chain looks horrible. I don’t mind animals performing–they do in other countries too, but they look somewhat happy, unlike the chained monkeys. Well what to do, people gotta feed themselves. Oh, the show reminds me of Kuda Lumping. Why don’t you talk about that next time? 😀

    1. They don’t show themself in every part of the city anymore, they only come to the suburban area…so, don’t expect to see them in Pondok Indah or Sudirman 😉
      There is also a place called Kampung Topeng Monyet because almost all the residences are Topeng Monyet performers.
      Yeah…the chain is what make it seem horrible.

      Ah..kuda lumping, will do it one day…there are so many things I can share about Indonesia and sometimes I find it confusing to choose which one will go first.

  5. A bit of animal cruelty is in every circus, isn’t it? It’s not ok, if the monkey is having wounds on his body or the monkey is too thin and needs food.Cause if no one pays for the show the people will be too poor to pay for the monkey’s food 😦

    1. I know 😦 that’s why I always try to give them money whenever I saw Topeng Monyet near my house, so that they can feed the monkey

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