Ancient Sri Lankan pottery traditions on show in Canberra Featured

Monday, 19 January 2015 00:00 Written by  Published in Sri Lanka News

Sri-Lankan born Canberra man Sanjiva de Silva is hopeful an art exhibition in Canberra's inner-north will help save an ancient Sri Lankan clay pottery tradition.

On a recent trip to Sri Lanka, Mr de Silva visited one of the country's most sacred temples, Kalaniya Maha Vihara.

When you look at the skill of these potters, it's almost unbelievable because they're artists but they don't consider themselves like that.

Sanjiva de Silva

 

"At all of the temples you make various kinds of offerings and one of them is with the little clay cups," he told 666 ABC Canberra.

"They put coconut oil and a wick in them and give [the cups] as offerings at temples."

Mr de Silva said hand-made pottery is practised by the poorest of the poor.

"Most of the traditional potters live under the poverty line in Sri Lanka," he said.

 

The clay is mixed by hand, thrown onto hand-spun wheels and fired in an open wood oven.

Artists make a profit of less than 10 cents for each clay pot, he said.

"We went into a village outside of Colombo and tried to find some of those potters and that's where we met one of the families," Mr de Silva said.

He discovered a family-run production where each family member played an integral part in their small enterprise.

"Their cottage industry supports a broader family of about 14," he said.

"Their old grandma even does the firing of the clay.

"When you look at the skill of these potters, it's almost unbelievable because they're artists but they don't consider themselves like that.

"Sri Lanka has a really well-educated, energetic and vibrant population.

"But for the Sri Lankans who are left out of that economic gain, the cost of living is rising and it gets very hard."

In an effort to give the trade a much-needed boost, Mr de Silva has established a trade partnership he calls "community to community international trade".

"Bringing these pots to Australia is keeping these guys in Sri Lanka doing something that's so valuable," Mr de Silva said.

 

An exhibition of their work will launch at The Front Gallery in Lyneham on February 6, 2015.

Courtesy: http://www.abc.net.au/

Last modified on Monday, 19 January 2015 15:05