Ariyapala and Sons
Ariyapala and Sons have established a Mask Museum in Ambalagauda for protection and preservation of traditional mask carving technique in Sri lanka. The museum is designed to introduce into the richness of the mask tradition of Ambalangoda and to strengthen this cultural heritage. The museum, the workshop and the small library (containing all available anthropological literature on masks performances) serve as a centre for traditional arts and crafts and for research as well. They have developed a well organized workshop unit where 15 – 20 craftpersons can be trained. The aim is to train the fisherman community people how carve a mask in traditional way and to involve the women artisan in mask painting after training them. They also organise training and workshop for the traditional mask dance and mask carving to facilitate the transmission of the traditional knowledge from one generation to next generation and to train the dancer to perform traditional mask dance at national and international level. The museum also has a store and marketing unit which display different traditional colorful masks. The tourists visit the museum and buy different masks and other diversified products related to mask. The product is also available for online shopping in the organisation’s website and bulk online order can be raised. They also organise the cultural events in school, colleges and cultural institutions to promote the traditional mask dance forms. An annual event on mask dance, folk play and rituals is also being organized to encourage the participation of local youth in the traditional forms.
Ariyapala Sons’ passing through their fifth generation of traditional masks carving and dancing is a non-profit organization, which works with the mask making community in Ambalagoda. Ambalangoda is a very popular cultural centre in the southern coastal region of Srilanka and well known for traditional masks carvings and masks dancing. It was named after ‘Ariyapala Wijesuriya Gurunnanse’, one of the greatest master craftsmen in Sri Lanka. The organizational building includes a well developed museum, a workshop and a well decorated product display shop with various ranges of traditional masks. The museum is designed to introduce into the richness of the mask tradition of Ambalangoda and to strengthen cultural heritage. This museum also has a small library containing all available anthropological literature on masks performances to serve as a centre for traditional arts crafts and for research as well.
The masks making community consists of 15 families living near the sea and are traditional mask makers. They are mostly Buddhist people. However according to their rituals the masks they make are of demons from Hindu myths and belief. Kolam is a traditional folk play in the west and in the south-west coastal regions in Sri Lanka. Masks are utilized in Kolam called as kolam masks. ‘Ariyapala Wijesuriya’ family is one of the families among few groups who perform traditional kolam dances from the beginning till today.
Ariyapa and Sons is directly working with the families of traditional mask makers and creating the direct market linkages for them. 15 to 20 craftsman daily work in the workshop centre for traditional mask curving and painting. They have trained a no of traditional mask dancer to perform at the national and international level for decades. They have built a well organized workshop unit where 15 – 20 craftspersons can be trained to curve traditional masks. For many decades, the famous masks have been highly appreciated by private and museum collectors and other experts. But for economic reasons mainly especially the Kolam Dances fell into disuse during the last 40-50 years and were performed only rarely. Now the young artists are inspired by the performances organized by the Aryapala and now getting involved in the practice of the traditional mask dance.
On the other side, mask carving has now developed into a cottage industry. The museum is now preserving the well known and elaborated traditional art of carving masks in the area. In order to save the local cultural heritage it has undertaken the tasks to carve a complete set of all masks, 120 in numbers. To illustrate the revival in traditional carving and mask performances two sets of masks are exhibited here. They belong to the Kolam Maduwa and to the Sanni Yakuma ritual as performed in Batapola and Ambalangoda in 1985 and 1986. They have also documentation on the step by step process of different mask making. The museum has also evolved as a place of protection and preservation of traditional rituals of the fisherman community in Ambalagauda. It has a store and marketing unit which display different traditional colourful masks. The tourists visit the museum and buy different masks and other diversified products related to mask. The product is also available for online shopping in the organisation’s website and bulk online order can be raised. The small product price range varies from USD 10 to 50. For the traditional masks the price range varies from USD 40 to 500 and for the special curved and decorated masks the price varies from $600-$3000.
The organisation is providing training for a number of young traditional mask dancers for decades. Once a year the trained artists perform Kolam Dance (folk play) in the premises of the organisation with the concept of managing their traditional art for new generation in the locality. Besides these they are also organizing traditional mask exhibitions and lectures on mask making and masks dances in different schools and Cultural institutions as a part of Heritage Education. They also organise an annual event on traditional mask dance and rituals in Amabalangauda to encourage the local youth for participating in the practice of traditional mask dance and also documents (audio-video documentation and photographs) performances of different teams.