Topeng monyet (lit. Monkey Mask or Monkey Show) is a show performed by trained monkeys. The show can be found in various parts of Jakarta city, the capital of Indonesia. It is a circus performing door to door. The group usually consists of one monkey, one trainer called “pawang” and one musician playing a small drum-like instrument called “gendang”. Some said that Topeng Monyet is “one of the most original forms of entertaintment” still exists to date.
The trainer first yelled “Topeng Monyet” several times to inform people on the street that they are ready to perform. Audiences,mostly children then gathered round the monkey. The show can also be performed in your house yard if you feel like it
The monkey did various tricks mimicking human actions. Curiously enough the monkey always named “Sarimin”. Do not ask me why he has to be named that way or the origin of the name; I am as curious as you are. In one part of the show, Sarimin carried a basket and umbrella. The trainer said that he was going to the market. In other part, Sarimin was said to be going to the school. He carried a backpack and book. Other time Sarimin pretended asif he was going to the beach by riding a mini bicycle and wearing sunglasses and hat. “Gendang” instrument played cheerful rhythm during the show.
Children laughed and cheered on Sarimin’s funny tricks. At the end of the show, Sarimin circulated a plastic sack for audiences to put the money in, usually coins or small change, to “pay” for the performance they have seen.
There is a growing concern nowadays in respect of the treatment to the monkeys. Some activist said that monkeys used in the show might be abused by their trainers. This may be true, but not all trainers are abusive. I have seen trainer who are nice to their monkeys.
Apart from the controversy of the show, it is disappearing and harder to find now. When you have time to visit Jakarta perhaps you might be lucky enough to find this show in several tourist locations. Be careful though, you don’t want to get scratched by the monkeys.