Traditional Mask Carving and Painting
Masks, thought to have healing and protective powers, have been crafted for centuries in Sri Lanka, originating from villages as part of ancient ceremonies and spirit-cleansing rituals. Today, masks are more predominantly used in dramas and dance performances but are still very much alive in rituals in
rural areas. The south of the island is a famous mask-producing region. The three types of masks used in Sri Lanka are ‘Kolam’ masks, created to perform comic folk dances; ‘Sanni’ or devil dancing masks, used in exorcism ceremonies to heal individuals believed to be possessed by demons; and ‘Raksha’,
which form part of local festivals and processions. This workshop in Kolam mask carving takes place at Sithuvili, a boutique arts and crafts gallery in the Fort. The workshop is hosted by Janaka, an artisan craftsman, and is designed to provide an in-depth insight into traditional Sri Lankan mask making. As part of the experience, you will learn about the history of masks in Sri Lanka, their practical uses and representations, and be shown the age-old techniques and tools used to carve the masks by the in-house carvers. Kolam masks are typically carved from ‘Kaduru’, a light, and easy-to-carve wood much like the better-known Balsa
This is a hands-on experience with the team of craftsmen primarily there to assist, correct and help you to enhance your own individual creations. If you choose to carve your own mask, you will also have the option to paint it using natural colours sourced from clay, plants and other earthy materials.
If you’re short on time, you could opt for a mask painting workshop, where you’ll personalise a pre-carved mask in your own style. The gallery has a range of masks, sculptures, painted timber boxes and
other antiques which you can browse after the workshop. Prices include materials, tools, and refreshments.