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Mon, 20 October 2014 17:06:37
Sri Lanka's brassware makers look for new markets
25 May, 2008 09:09:22
By Charitha Fernando
May 25, 2008 (LBO) - Sri Lanka' traditional brass ornaments have added beauty and elegance to households in the island for centuries. Lighting a traditional oil lamp is a key event at any auspicious occasion in Sri Lanka.
Considered a symbol of prosperity and good luck, they often trim a bride's dowry in some villages in the deep south of the island.

Villagers of Angulmaduwa in Beliatta in the Hambantota district have been producing hand crafted traditional brassware for generations.

Though the craft is passed down generations, only around fifteen families are left to run the industry in Angulmaduwa.

Craftsmen say the industry has been less appealing to the younger generation and many have given up unable to sustain it.

"It is hard for our industry to proceed with the unstable situation in the country and the younger generation does not want to come into the industry because of these problems," K.W. Rohana Kumarasiri, a craftsman said.

"A lot of people have left the industry," he said.

The traditional brassware industry is spread across the central hills of Kandy and in areas like Galle, Matara and Beliatta in the southern region.

Craftsmen say there is a good demand for brassware from the domestic market.

However, high prices of raw materials are pushing the cost of production up threatening the future of the industry.

"Raw materials are scarce and the price of a kilo is over 375 rupees. In Colombo it's over 400 rupees and sufficient amounts are difficult to find," Kumarasiri said.

"Scarcity and high cost of raw materials are threatening the sustainability of the industry and production costs have increased due to higher raw material cost," he said.

Cheaper Indian metal products like locks, keys, bolts, hinges and handles needed for the construction industry are also hurting the brass market.

With a higher production cost, craftsmen like Kumarasiri are unable to compete with cheaper Indian products.

But homeless Sri Lankans who are trying to build a house for themselves amidst high interest rates and soaring land prices also need the best deal they can get.

Iron smelting and steel tempering in Sri Lanka are believed to have been practiced in ancient times in villages in Balangoda, the central hills and in the south.

The village of Angulmaduwa in the Hambantota district is believed to be the original home of these metal craftsmen.

Brass carving developed further, driven by the demand for souvenirs and gifts from tourists visiting Sri Lanka.

To help sustain the Angulmaduwa brass work industry, the Hambantota chamber of commerce is trying to integrate the village in its tourism promotional drive aimed at attracting more tourists to the Hambantota district.

The Hambantota chamber of commerce together with US based INGO Mercy Corp is aggressively promoting the Hambantota district as the country’s deep south.

The plan is to get tourists visiting the historical Mulkirigala rock cave temple to also visit the Angulmaduwa village to see brassware making.

Kumarasiri is hopeful that he could sell his brassware at higher prices to foreign visitors.

"There is a business advantage because when tourists come they would like to take something back to remember their visit to Angulmaduwa," Kumarasiri said.

"They would like something small and light in weight. We should be able to cater to that requirement," he said

He has already designed an attractive light weight brassware set consisting of five traditional utensils for foreign visitors.

Kumarasiri is hopeful that they would like the traditional and exquisite craftsmanship of Angulmaduwa.

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