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Ambalangoda’s rich but partly-forgotten tradition of puppetry is to be revived and developed with the establishment of Sri Lanka’s first puppetry museum with funding support from the Commercial Bank of Ceylon.
A regular sponsor of initiatives to preserve the country’s cultural heritage, the Bank has pledged to support a proposal by Mr Ganwari Supun Gamini, a science graduate of the Peradeniya University, and a fourth generation descendent of Podisirina Gurunnanse, considered the father of puppetry in Sri Lanka, to set up a museum and theatre dedicated to the artin this southern coastal town.
To be set up in a building leased from Sarvodaya, the proposed puppetry museum will also be supported by final year students of the University of Visual and Performing Arts, Colombo, to stage puppet shows for locals as well as foreign tourists.
Commercial Bank’s funding will pay the costs of rent, decorations and costumes for the puppets, set design, curtains, lighting, sound, stage design, stationery and advertising, enabling the project’s proponent torealise a long-nurtured dream.
“Traditional Sri Lankan puppetry and the associated folklore are well worth preserving for future generations,” Commercial Bank’s Head of Operations Mrs Priyanthi Perera said. “They are in danger of being obliterated by the proliferation of new cultural influences. The Bank was impressed by the vision of Mr Supun Gamini to revive the art, and happy to fund the project.”
The proposed museum will display puppets depicting many well-loved characters from Sinhala tradition and mythology as well as traditional devil masks that inhabit folklore. A stage to be erected in a large hall in the backyard of the building is to be used to perform puppet shows in the ‘diktala kaalagola’ and Jathaka story genres.
It has also been proposed to use the puppet shows for public awareness programmes and campaigns on important social issues such as drugs, smoking, healthcare and road rules.
Preserving Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage is one of the focus areas of the CSR Trust of Commercial Bank. Among some of projects the Trust has supported in this sphere are the construction of a Museum at Kirivehera, the donation of lamp posts to Dambulla Temple and their renovation and the repairof the steps to the summit of Sri Pada.