Mat Weaving & Other Rush-ware, Fibre-ware & Leaf Crafts

Mat Weaving & Other Rush-ware, Fibre-ware & Leaf Crafts


Sri Lanka has abundant rush-ware and foliage plants, concentrated in the marshy lands of hinterland areas around villages on the southern coast of the country. Fibrous plants are found in the hilly regions. Mat-weaving is thus abundant. The craft is practised chiefly by women, often informally, while the men are away in the fields or in work-shops. Especially in rural areas, mat-weaving has been considered a skill that it is essential for girls to learn.

Various varieties of rush-ware that are found include gatapan (Scirpus Erectus), pothukola (Scelria Oryzoides), galaha (Cyperus Corymbosus), tunhiriya, borupang (Eleocharis Plantaginea), hewan (Cyperus Dehiscens), and elupan. In Batticaloa and adjoining districts, a variety of rush known locally as kat-pan, probably the same as galaha, grows in abundance in the marshy areas and is widely used for mat-weaving. Galaha, used to make carpets, grows in Gampaha district in Ambalammulla.

When mats were used only in the rural areas, the dyes were made of juices of leaves, fruits, and flowers from various trees. The red dye yielded by the patangi (Caesalpinia Sappan), is used prolifically and is the most important dye. To create black, the grasses are buried in the mud of rice-fields. The lower oxide of iron in the mud combines with tannin in the grass to form an inky black colour. Yellow dye is obtained from the young fruits of the kaha (Bixa Orellana) or from saffron, which is pounded in a mortar, and the extract boiled with water, for an hour, with the leaves to be dyed. Owing to an increase in the volume of mats being made, imported synthetic dyes are being used.

 

PLANT

PART OF PLANT USED

1.

Pang

rushes/grasses

2.

Galaha

rushes/grasses

3.

Wetakeya

leaves of the foliage plant

4.

Indikola

leaves of the palm

5.

Palmyrah

pulp, sap, leaf, fibre, & timber of the palm

6.

Talipot

leaves of the palm

7.

Ekel

undried leaf fronds of the coconut tree

8.

Savandara

roots of the plant

9.

Hana

fibre

10.

Navapatta

bark of the tree

11.

Banana

fibre

12.

Ornamental Coir

fibre obtained from the coconut husk



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