'Unintentional offence': Adidas Singapore apologises for claiming traditional puppet show as Malaysian, draws Indonesians' ire

Adidas Singapore has apologised after overlooking wayang kulit’s — or shadow puppet theatre — Indonesian roots in a recent Instagram post.

Uploaded last Wednesday (Nov 10), the single post attracted almost 30,000 comments, drawing the ire of Indonesian netizens. Adidas Singapore attempted to pay homage to this traditional art form while promoting its latest shoes.

However, Indonesia was not mentioned once and the original post referenced neighbouring Malaysia instead.


Adidas Singapore published an apology via Instagram story on Nov 15 after the backlash from angry Indonesians.  


In their apology, they wrote: “While Wayang Kulit is a significant part of Malaysia’s cultural heritage, we should have highlighted its origins from Indonesia in our post.

“We sincerely apologise for any unintentional offence that may have been taken, and have now amended our post.”

Wayang kulit can be found in Javanese, Balinese and Lombok cultures in Indonesia. The puppet figures are handled by the dhalang (puppeteer) and are then rear-projected on a linen screen with a coconut-oil light. That’s where the puppeteer crafts riveting storylines and masterfully executes the performance.

One Twitter user argued that Adidas Singapore need not be blamed, as Malaysia has wayang kulit too. However, another Twitter user suggested that Adidas Singapore should have checked highlighting that their video used wayang kulit from Java, and not from Malaysia.   


This incident adds to the contentious topic of cultural appropriation in Southeast Asia.

In June 2020, Peranakan eatery Violet Onn apologised when angry netizens called out that nasi ambeng, a traditionally Javanese dish, had been culturally appropriated and presented as a Nonya dish instead.

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