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Sri Lanka’s age-old culture is one seeped in traditional arts and craft. In modern day Sri Lanka, these traditions live on.
Batik – Adapted from the Indonesian classic art, Batik gained elitist status in medieval Sri Lank, featuring prominently in the Kandyan Court in the form of banners, wall hangings and the ceremonial dress of the nobility. Today most batiks artists are located in the Western province, Colombo in particular. Some young and enterprising designers have taken the art-form to high fashion featuring their exclusive creations in the global fashion ramps.
Handloom Weaving – Historically, hand-loom weaving has its roots in the Kandyan region, principally in the production of robes for the Buddhist monks. Today, the art is practices mainly in the central province and with the encouragement of the Government, modern accessories like curtains, furnishing materials, linens and dress fabrics are produced to the highest international standards.
Lace work – A legacy of the Portuguese, lace work was introduced to Sri Lanka in the middle of the 16th Century and further developed by the Dutch. The growing demand for lace work internationally has seen the establishment of four National Craft Council training centres in the south of the country where lace work is famous. Artisans in the Galle Fort, weave snow-white reams of intricate lace using the dying technique of Beeralu.
Wooden masks – Sri Lanka has a long tradition of mask- making, with most masks featuring carved images of demons, divine beings, legendary characters and animals. In early times they were used as part of “devil dancing’ rituals to exorcise spirits and illness, a traditional ritual that is still prevalent amongst communities in rural Sri Lanka. Masks also feature prominently in traditional Sri Lankan theatre. About 15,000 museums around the world house Sri Lankan mask collections, among them the British Museum. Majority of the mask-making artisans are found in the southern and western provinces.
Pottery – Sri Lanka’s long unbroken pottery tradition goes back over the centuries to the proto-historic period, or the time predating recorded history. Terracotta artisans in contemporary Sri Lanka create a large and varied range of decorative pieces in addition to the more traditional religious and utilitarian pottery. The majority of pottery artisans live in the western and central provinces.
Coconut shell-ware – The ancient craft holds an exalted position among all the crafts in Sri Lanka. many early ‘water dippers’ are now collectors items, some with fine quality, silver-mounted carvings. The artisans specializing in the craft are found in the western coastal region.