In few strolls from Ambalangoda sandy beach fronts, you’ll come across a store – “Ambalangoda Mask Museum” where the best Sri Lankan traditional mask collection laying by gaining a remarkable reputation for well preserving and presenting a descending tradition in Sri Lanka. The store is consisting a showroom, workshop and a small library including valuable chronological records relating this mesmerizing artwork.
If you can pay a visit to this creative shop unquestionably you won’t be having any regrets. Because you will not only be enjoying dynamic collection of beautiful and creative mask but you’ll get the chance to carve a mask by yourself with the demonstration of skillful carving artists and also maybe you can take some souvenirs back home for a fair price as well.
Mask tradition is a universal theme tied with different practices and believes. Every tradition and every culture own their own uniqueness, significance and distinguish features in masks, yet mythical creatures, animal reflections and human forms are very much common to every mask tradition in the world and So as it is valid for Sri Lankan masks as well. You’ll explore different formation of gods, demons, animals, and humans at this fascinating museum creatively designed and carved by skillful craftsmen. By surprising you, there 120 different masks in Sri Lankan tradition mask collection and most of them are compositions of humans, gods, demons and animals. Back days they were used for traditional performances and rituals for different prospects.
The craftsmen you’ll confront here have harried the mask carving knowledge, skill set and tools from their forefathers where the mask art is still passing from their generation to generation effectively. In contemporary Sri Lanka masks are not more than using as a decoration or a cottage industry related to tourism but back then masks performances concerned more religiously specially at the occasions which designed to banish fearful demons and the diseases caused by evils. At the same time mask performances also were a huge entertainment for the Sri Lankans back then where there were no electronics devices and media were there for amusement.
Every mask has its own uniqueness, characteristics and a folklore attached along. They displaying dynamic expressions based on their types. Based on the performance there are two types of masks. The mask related Sanni Yakuma those used at the traditional healing rituals back days and the masks used for Kolam maduwa in order to entertain villagers with traditional comic plays.
The masks coming from sanni Yakuma can easily recognized with their fearful and ferocious expressions and facial features. People were used to believe the fact that diseases are caused by cruel demons. As per the folklore and mythology there are 18 types of demons and so as the diseases. Therefore, in order to chase the demons and the diseases causing by them the victims must be cured by Sanni Yakuma performance. Here the dancers wear the masks of so-called demons and performs Sanni Yakuma.
The other type of mask is used for Kolam dances. As per the mythical records Kolam Maduwa starts with a craving of the pregnant queen of Maha Sammatha king to see mask dances. Here the masks depict the facial expressions and behaviors of different characters in traditional society. The noble men, aristocrats’ families, villagers are much common among them and at the same time Rasksha dances related to ancient Ramayana legend also perform at Kolam Maduwa.
You may wonder how these masks are made. It’s a process of using chisels and mallets creatively to craft dried and drained timber called Kaduru. The dried Kaduru timber cut into the required pieces to depict the shape of mysterious faces. To season, the cut timber pieces are kept for few days in a hearth to get them smoked. After that they are carved in details and paint with natural colours. ‘’Dorana oil’’ is mixing to the colours when paint for the durability of the masks. And you may find it interesting when you also get a chance to paint a mask.
Traditional masks are the perfect reflection of the believes, norms, practices, spiritual and psychological status of ancient Sri Lankan community. Sadly, the beauty of this captivating performances is no more seen as the days back then but for sure this little space consisting with mind blowing timber faces will add novel experience for your diaries and numerous captures for your tour album. Ambalangoda mask museum projects a detail picture of this magical island nation to the world and hence will enlighten your insight of masks art.