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Craft Practices in Sri Lankan Context

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Ancient Sri Lanka had the potential of producing all everyday needs of people within the country. Hence Sri Lanka owns a long legacy of craft practices. According to (Senanayake, 2013) these practices passed in families from generation to generation for years and reduced with the foreign trade, invasions and colonization in Sri Lanka. Some crafts are still carried down through generations and some families still engaged in those indigenous production methods of handmade lifestyle products using local natural raw materials and age old techniques. These craft practiced helped in create economic values within the country. The practices that have a cultural significance and hold a long existence are commonly known as traditional crafts. What is identified today as traditional crafts must have been once an evolving skill practice. There must have been a time where the skilled manual workers have made innovations within their practices. Immense advancements within the practice must have for some traditional crafts to be identified at present as extraordinary creations. The practice was creative and the artisans; the skilled manual workers were the designers within that practice. (Senanayake, 2013) Handloom products, dumbara weaving, pethampili, brass products, cane and bamboo products, mask making, lac work, rush and reed products, palm based products and wood carvings are some traditional craft practices which are practiced for centuries within the county.

Apart from the traditional craft practices which are passed down through generations. Some communities are practicing crafts like knitting, crochet and macram within the Sri Lankan context for many years. Those techniques also can be identifies as the craft practices done in local context. Few crafts within the local practice are directly combined with the fashion industry. (Senanayake, 2013) Handloom, umbara textile weaving, petampili, beeralu, tatting, crochet and knitting are some textile base craft techniques practice in Sri Lankan context. At the current stage, several craft communities are scattered within Sri Lankan context and practices as cottage industries. These communities are recognized by the crafts they are engaged in. These inherent handmade products are substituted by the machine made products as an impact of industrialization. Another issue is craftsmen have to competing with good from all round the world. Because the open economy pushes customers to buy inexpensive imported goods rather than local goods. In other hand people are not aware of the real value of craft base products and this led to the neglect of local crafts. If the value is known by the customers, they will tend to pay for real value of the product in higher amounts. Artisans have moved to cities searching for higher incomes rather than the Lower income for the higher craftsmanship. Hence unqualified employment remain within the craft practices. It is difficulty in achieving new markets. As a result, these craft practices are declining from the country. Local market, export market and tourism are only sales channels crafts are catered in the current context. Government also trying to promote and develop local crafts collobaration with the Ministry of Small Industries Development of Sri Lanka and the National Crafts Council (NCC) via implementing different programs to motivate craftsmen.

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Wooden Masks Wooden masks are traditionally manufactured in south western costal area of Sri Lanka. The knowledge and skills has been passed down through generations to the communities who are engaged in mask making. Ambalangoda is the most prominent city known to be the specialized area in mask making from the past. (, n.d.) These handmade masks are being used in healing rites and rituals which linked to Sri Lankan folklore. For instance devil dances, dance-drama performances which elaborately tells a story is done by experienced dancers and actors wearing a specific mask according to the situation. Uda link eka Using of masks are differs according to the performance. Hence the masks are carved in variety of sizes, specific features and painted in various brilliant colours which depict the gods, human, demons and beasts.

The ideal timber material used for mask making is light and soft which is known as Kaduru in the local context. As the process of mask making described in the (, n.d.) Logs are sun dried till the sticky liquid evaporated as the initial step. Afterward, logs are cut into parts according to the needed size. Then the initial shape of the mask is raked by cutting pieces of the log according to the measurements given in ancient recorded instructions. Then the seasoning is done by smoking the log for six, seven days in a hearth. The seasoned log is carved using chisels, mallets and other related tools according to the specific features. Then the crafted mask will be smoothened and painted. Wood Carvings Sri Lanka has a long history for traditional craft of wood carvings. Embekke devalaya, Lankathilaka viharaya are some places which depict the richness of Sri Lankan wood carvings. At present, miniature models of carved wood panels in above mentioned temples, carved three dimensional elephants of ebony wood, Buddha statues can be seen in Sri Lankan market. Wall hangings, jewelleries, ornaments, gift boxes, lacquer products, sculptures, toys and educational items, household items, furniture are some of the contemporary items can be seen in the market.

Traditional Drums Manufacturing traditional drums which is known as bera is another craft practice in a few craft communities in Sri Lanka. Craft communities of Kurunegala and Hodiyadeniya in kandy are the cities practice this special craft of manufacturing drums. Extremely detailed and shaped drum with a specific sound is an outcome of a highly time consuming process. Jack tree wood is mostly used for making the body of drum and the animal skin.

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Craft practices in Sri Lankan context. (2019, March 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 11, 2021, from
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