Martin Wickramasinghe childhood home, now part of the Wickramasinghe Folk Museum.
Photo courtesy of Dream Into Reality
When I was in Sri Lanka, one of my most memorable visits was to the Wickramasinghe Folk Museum at Koggala, just 10 km from Galle and opposite the hotel that we were staying in. From the moment I walked into the compound and saw this house, I knew it would be one of my dolls house projects.
Photo courtesy of "From The Cradle-Glimpses of Sri Lanka Folk Culture Portrayed at the Martin Wickramasinghe Museum of Folk Culture"
According to the museum book "From The Cradle" , this is a typical middle class rural home of the early 19th century occupied by the village gentry. The headman, the teacher, the native physician were among such people in the village.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT: It was a pity that my memory card was full right after I took this photo of a monk in the museum garden. I have thus taken great liberties with the pictures and text from "From The Cradle" . All words in italics are quotes from the book.
Spacious Drawing Room -Photo courtesy of "From The Cradle"
Occidental influence is clear from the furnishings.
In the first picture, you can see a nice wide porch area at the entrance of the house. This open veranda is where the homefolk relax and where the casual visitors are also entertained. Relatives and gentry are invited in and they sit in the drawing room.
Bed Room -Photo courtesy of "From The Cradle"
This is the main bedroom which is on the left of the drawing room. There are others behind the drawing room.
Photo courtesy of "From The Cradle"
This pitcher and basin is in the room where Wickramasinghe was born. That was the era when a mother gave birth in her own home. An experienced village midwife would handle the delivery. Wickramasinghe was the only male after 8 girls. In my own family, 2 of my siblings were also born at home.
Dining Room -Photo courtesy of "From The Cradle"
The dining room is separate from all the other rooms whilst the kitchen is in the rear of the house.
Typical village kitchen (kussiya) in a Singhala home -Photo from "From The Cradle"
I am particularly interested in the Kitchen because that is the next room I have to tackle in The Rolla's House.
Traditional pots and pans used in my hostess' modern and affluent household.
I have seen quite a few kitchens in Sri Lanka and invariably they bear some resemblance, whether it is old or new, rich or poor. This is one place where traditions are steadfastly upheld and where no amount of European influence can change.
Wooden decorative spoon holder (hendi aana) -Photo from "From The Cradle"
Hearths & Pots - Photo from "From The Cradle"
Cooking is done using firewood. A hearth (lipa) is prepared using either three stones (lipgal) or clay to raise the cooking pot above the fire. There would at least be two or three hearths. Above these is the dum messa- a loft where certain foodstuffs as well as pots and pans are stored.
Picture taken by me at The Historical Mansion Museum in Galle
Paraphernalia used in the kitchen are varied. Most of them are earthenware utensils. Clay pots used as cooking utensils are identified according to their shape and design. The kalagediya, for example is a vessel used to carry and store water. Females carry it on the hip with the arm passing around its neck. The muttiya which has a wide mouth is used to boil rice. New pots are changed once a year.
Two or three days before the Avurudda or the Sinhalese New Year, the village potter brings a pingo load of clay pots and pans as gifts to each of the four leading families in the village. The potter is invited to partake of a meal of rice, coconut, chillies , salt and home made sweet-meats, which enable him to enjoy the New Year meal with his own family in style. In his pingo load of pots, the potter includes stack of little toy clay pots for the little children in the households he visits.
Sweet-meat containers Photo from "From The Cradle"
On avurudu day, milk rice and numerous types of sweet meats adorn the table and the family members sit together to enjoy the first meal for the New Year. Following tradition, the neighbours are sent their share. They in turn would reciprocate.
Rice Measuring Cans (Mum uses these too!) Photo from "From The Cradle"
The Sinhalese eats rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Rice and Curry is on every menu and in every hotel buffet. Now if you are in Sri Lanka and want a traditional breakfast, you ask for hopper or string hopper. These too are made with rice.
Paddy Measuring vessels (wooden and cane) Photo from "From The Cradle"
Rice is obtained from paddy grown extensively throughout the country. Most rural folk own at least a small plot of paddy land which they could cultivate during the rainy season. Work at the threshing floor is done with the utmost respect. Great care is taken in what they utter and what they do. Before the paddy is measured and put into bags to be taken home, a few measures are kept aside as offerings to Buddha and the deities.
Barns-Photo from "From The Cradle"
The barns for the storage of paddy are a common sight in rural homes even today. The straw roof is the lid of the barn. Paddy is loaded into the barn through the roof using a ladder to reach it. The door is at the bottom so that what is drawn out is the older paddy. The barns are of different sizes depending on the extent of the paddy fields owned by the family and the yields obtained.
Fishing traps use for fresh water fishing -Photo from "From The Cradle"
These traps are designed by the village folk for shallow water fishing. They are made out of ekel or reed and are designed for the fishes to swim into them and get trapped. They are then collected and cooked for a home meal.
Karakgediya- Photo from "From The Cradle"
This one called the Karakgediya is, according to Robert Knox , a British sailor who was taken prisoner by the Sinhalese king in the mid 17th century, a kind of basket made of small sticks so close that fish cannot get thru; it is broad at bottom and narrow at top, like a funnel, the hole big enough for a man to thrust his arm in , wide at the mouth about two or three foot; these baskets they jobb down and the end stick in the mud which often happen upon a fish; where they do they feel it by the fish beating itself against the sides, Then they put in their hands and take them out.
Can you guess what I am going to use to make the karakgediya?
Isn't it amazing how similar some of our traditions are?