Museum Hours
Thu: 1 PM–8 PM
Fri–Mon: 10 AM–5 PM
Tue–Wed: Closed
200 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Buta, a demon

Buta (literally meaning “to be blind”) are the ogres, or demons, who wreak havoc on the universe. In wayang, however, they often take the role of humorous oafs. While the characters from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the great Hindu epics, must adhere to a set standard of iconography, the buta—who are characterized by large bodies, round eyes, blunt noses, and exposed teeth—may be designed, carved, and painted according to the artist’s imagination. Modern buta incorporate a variety of features that appeal to younger audiences. These include body parts that appear to be lopped off in the course of a fight and inner tubes that spray fake blood. The mouth of the buta shown here pops open so that the upper portion of the head can tip back completely to reveal the small, wide-eyed and green-faced ogre inside.