General description: Masks have been used in Sri Lanka for generations, originating from rituals in village settings that followed ancient beliefs, and also used for curing illness. It is believed that masks have healing and protective powers. Today masks are used in dramas and dance performances but in rural areas used in rituals that are very much alive.
Experience description: This hands-on workshop in Kolam mask carving takes place at Sithuvili, a boutique antiques, arts and crafts shop tucked away on Leybann Street in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Galle Fort. The workshop is hosted by an artisan craftsman and takes you through the stages of the age old tradition in mask carving from start to finish. The different types of masks used in Sri Lanka are Kolam mask, Sanni mask and Raksha mask. We begin with an introduction to Sri Lankan masks and the art of Kolam mask carving, narrated by your host. You will then be given a detailed introduction to the tools used in carving up a block of wood. Kolam masks are mainly made from a light wood known as ‘kaduru’, which helps in easy carving and ensures durability and lightness. Your master craftsman will draw outlines and demonstrate the carving techniques, after which point it’s all down to you! He’s always by your side from start to finish in the event you are unsure of angles or pressure to place on the tools.
Your host: Your host is a young artist/craftsman born in Ambalangoda. His parents worked in the batik industry and he recalls he learnt of the traditional Sinhala motifs and decorative styles as a student at Devananda College, Ambalangoda. He began in pottery painting, developing a style and form of his own, based naturally on the existing forms familiar to him. From pottery painting he moved to pulp before becoming a lead supplier to Barefoot in 1999.
Includes: All materials and tools, a dedicated master craftsman, refreshment and your own mask.
Timings: 9AM to 11.30AM
What to wear or bring along: Light, cool clothing. It can get humid during the day.
Important information: Sithuvili is particularly sensitive to two things: being eco-friendly and using traditional material. The shop uses a lot of recycled paper and draws from materials like mahogany, kithul (treacle), kurundu (cinnamon) etc. He uses clay and waste material such as broken tiles and bees wax and cow dung.
Private/not private: This experience is always private.