Phanakavhan, more intimately known as Punakawan in Javanese culture, are the clown servant of a hero in Javanese shadow puppet stories. Punakawan consists of Semar, Petruk, Gareng, and Bagong, 4 figures with distinctive physical traits that symbolizes certain moral characteristics.
Semar is always portrayed as short and fat with his left hands pointing backwardsand his right hand pointing upwards. Petruk is portrayed as tall and gangling with a long nose, Gareng as short with a club foot, cross-eyed, and bended arms and Bagong as obese.
Each of Punakawan characters are created to remind us of some crucial traits we all need to have.
Semar’s left hand reminds us to always surrender to God while pursuing as much knowledge as we can while his right hand reminds us to always believe in God
Gareng’s eyes remind us not to see anything that would tempt us to commit evil deeds. His bended arms remind us to never take what don’t belong to us. His club feet reminds us to always be cautious and calculated with our actions.
Petruk and his story remind us to always be able to care for others, be a good listener and keep a secret, able to receive criticism and praise wisely, and always be useful for others around us.
Bagong teaches us about being honest, not being rash with our decisions and always adapting to others around us.
Through this painting, JJ is trying to encourage his fellow countrymen to remember this old tradition and remind them how this beautiful culture has served them well in the past. The painting shows how people can live in harmony when all of us focus on those characteristics in the figures of the Punakawan.