The road from Sri Lanka to L’Indochine
Sri Lanka’s pivotal position in the ancient Silk Route has made it a crossroad of cultural and trade exchange of the West and the East.
As such, it is home to many forms of Sri Lankan arts and crafts including painting, sculpture, and architecture, all of which take inspiration from the island’s long and lasting Buddhist culture. Apart from religion, colonization by the Dutch, the Portuguese, and the British have also been primary influences; while its close relations with neighboring India have also played a key role.
Around Kandy, for example, villages practice specific artistic skills that have been passed on from generations like drum making, mat weaving, wood carving, and cane and reed ware. The roadside is lined with small shops selling baskets, furniture, and other household items.
Traditional wooden handicrafts and clay potters can also be found around the hilly regions; while Portuguese-inspired lacework and Indonesian-inspired Batik are also popular.
This summer, L’Indochine takes you on an amazing adventure as inspiration seekers bring us Sri Lanka’s expertly curated and exquisitely designed fashion and home accessories collection.
Thanks to the abundance of timber in Sri Lanka, traditional architecture was made of wood, and this led to a strong heritage of woodcarving skills. If you visit Kandy, you will see amazingly detailed carving in the palaces and temples.
Today, wooden sculptures have become a popular craft item with tourists—statues of Buddhas and gods; as well and animals such as elephants made from hardwood like ebony, palu, sandalwood, gam-malu, and na. After the wood is selected, a rough shape is chiseled out in a process known as baragabanawa. Then the actual features are carved with fine chisels; and the wood is then smoothed and polished.
Wooden masks are said to bring good luck, friendship and power. In early times, the masks were used in rituals, dramas and curing sickness. The city of Ambalangoda located at the southwestern coastal belt, has a long heritage of producing the wooden masks, which are made from a lightwood called kaduru and carved into various cha-racters.
The art of metalwork has had a long tradition at Sri Lanka, which today produces gold, silver, brass, and iron works from ornamental casting and pierced designs. Decorative iron or steel handicrafts with wavy patterns of etching or inlays of precious metals and filigree-delicate decorative openwork are also produced in Sri lanka in traditional techniques.
Batik-making, which is actually an Indonesian art, has developed in Sri Lanka into its unique style to produce sarongs, dresses, wall hangings, cushion covers and décor items. Some of the best are the batik pictures made in Kandy and Fresco Batiks on the Peradeniya road outside Kandy.