Mask Museum

Ambalangoda, Sri Lanka

The area around Ambalangoda, about 25km up the coast from Galle, is well-known for the craft of mask production. The masks are worn in dances, and are also sold to the tourist trade and institutions for display. This private museum, for example, is also a commercial outfit, selling masks that are made by hand on the premises.

According to the museum's handout, there are three kinds of masked dances. Kolam masks are used in storytelling performances. Raksha (Demon) masks are apotropaic, used in processions and festivals. Sanni ("Devil Dance") masks are also apotropaic, used in curing ceremonies.

The mask seen here is Kolam, worn during performance of a tantri tale (folktale) in which a treacherous princess gives up her husband for a rival king, who then rejects her. The moral of the story is that the princess is like a greedy fox, who drops a piece of meat to grab for a fish instead, but loses both the meat and the fish in the process.