Southern Art Tour
Southern Sri Lanka is famous for its arts and crafts, and Ambalangoda, just a five-minute drive south of the hotel, is its undisputed capital. The town is renowned for the manufacture of wooden masks and puppets. For years, craftsmen have been carving life-like masks out of light balsa wood to use in rituals and dance performances. The hand-carved and hand-painted masks are both vibrant and colourful and are thought to have healing and protective powers. Local puppet shows, showing dramas, comedies and folk tales were also a popular form of entertainment. On this tour you will spend time with Janaka, a local artist from Ambalangoda, exploring the culture and crafts of his hometown in his delightful, open-aired Mini Moke. Your first stop will be at Sunandarama Maha Vihara, a sacred monastery that dates back to the 18th century. The shrine room holds artistic murals that are notable examples of ancient Sri Lankan arts and crafts. The bell arch or the Makara Thorana (a Pandal with a figure of a dragon) is the most significant creation of this temple, and Janaka will take you through its wonderful history.
You will then move on to Ambalangoda’s main artistic workshops, where you will discover the many traditional forms of art such as, batik, puppetry and mask making. At the mask museum, you can observe the craftsmen delicately crafting masks in their workshop (you can have a go yourself, if you wish, for an additional fee). The museum comprises of some masks that are over 200 years old, and provides a brief glimpse at the different uses of masks in rural Sri Lanka. Next, Janaka will take you to his home to meet his father, a local batik artist. He has a tiny workshop at the back of his home where you can see the process of batik making, and there are plenty of finished batiks available for you to purchase. On your way back to the hotel, you will stop at the local theatre to enjoy a puppet show lined up with three acts, performed to the beats of folk music. If you like, you can also try your hand at stringing the puppets and learning the art of manoeuvring them from a professional puppeteer.
If time is not on your side, but you would still like to get a glimpse into the local arts and crafts, you could choose to visit some of these locations individually. Please see the ‘Traditional Puppet Play’ and ‘Mask Museum’ page for more details