Sri Lankan tovil mask. National Museum Scotland
In Sri Lanka traditional masks are not just show-pieces or curios to decorate apartments. Here they still have meaningful existence in rituals and performances. Masks worn during so called demon dances are called tovil masks. During a tovil ceremony the dancer has to impersonate the demon and to converse freely with the exorcist. So many of the masks worn in these ceremonies are only half-cut masks and do not cover the entire face and head. They are light and easy to talk through.
There is a specialized group of tovil masks called sanni masks. Many Sri Lankans believe that diseases are results of demonic activity and 18 demons that cause sicknesses are represented by the sanni masks. Among the 18 deseases are following: delirium, abdominal pain, blindness, lameness, dumbness, deafness and insomnia, paralysis, cold shivers, disease of the stomach, fainting, high fever.
Sri Lankan sanni mask depicting the demon of deafness. The British Museum
Sri Lankan sanni mask. National Museum Scotland
Sri Lankan kolam mask. The British Museum
Kolam animal mask. The British Museum
Masks are usually made of light and durable local wood. After the wood is hollowed from inside it is kept on the kitchen shelf to dry. The longer it is there the better. It is said that if the wood is kept on the shelf for 6 months the mask will last 150 years.