Q: I want you to see my last purchase which, unbelievable but true, also pleases my husband. It is a mask from Sri Lanka and looks rather old judging from the wood (not old due to the paint). I bought it at an online auction. Could you please tell me more about it? Monica, 1588
A: I’m pleased to hear that your husband liked this Raksha mask. (My wife was rarely pleased with my purchases.) It is especially handsome because the composition and coloration is so professional. Perhaps this carver is an art school graduate. However, it won’t impress any serious collector of Sri Lankan masks. That’s because it is a little too quickly painted and carefully antiqued. Yes, it is meant for the tourists trade.
Here’s some general information that will be of interest to beginning collectors. These colorful and various types of masks are used at different occasions by the locals. Mostly at traditional dance performances and religious rituals carried out with the belief of healing sicknesses, praying for rain and many more uses. Traditional mask dances resemble a group of devils and they have created particular design of a mask for each and every devilish character in the performance. These masks also carry different facial expressions according to the dance act. To name some, Kolam masks in Kolam dramas carry a funny looking humorous type of an expression while Raksha masks carry a fearless devilish expression. B