Leather puppets could be traced closest to pre-history of cinema, shadow puppetry being amongst the most ancient performing arts, involving a complex set of skills like drawing and painting, story telling, playing music and singing. Hence the puppeteers were one of the most diversely skilled group of performers: they processed the leather, painted puppets, played music and sang. In olden times leather puppetry was widespread across Asia, and has survived until today in various forms, from Wayang kulit in Indonesia to Karagoz in Turkey, also known as Karagiozis in Greece. In india the craft was once spread across most of the states in south, while today its limited to only two clusters: Nimmalakunta village of Anantapur District in Andhra Pardesh and Odash village of Angul district in Odisha.
In Andhra Pradesh shadow puppetry is better know as Tolu Bommalata, tolu meaning leather and Bommalata puppet dance. Tha puppets are usually characters drawn from the Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabarata,
As the process of making puppets was often very long and skill intensive, puppets had to last for long time and they did too, some times for hundreds of years.
Withe the decline of Tolu Bommalata as performing art, new means of expression are needed for the milieu. There has been a profusion of leather puppetry lampshades and other decorative items, which have been popularised and are currently sold in craft markets all over India. In producing such items, the potential of leather puppetry is far from being tapped. Although some work has already been carried out by various designers and organisations to revive this suffering art form, the possibilities of fostering shadow puppetry by means of design interventions are countless.