Friday, July 06, 2018

Rare ivory and pearl exhibition with a message

To mark International Museum Day on May 18 (declared by the International Community of Museums -ICOM), the Colombo National Museum has on display a temporary exhibition of ivory, pearls and exotic sea shells.

This exhibition which is on until June 18 highlights the dexterity of the Lankan craftsmen of yesteryear – seen in intricately crafted jewellery boxes, figurines, replicas of stupas and handloom shuttles on display.

“Although ivory was a rich form of art in ancient Sri Lanka, it should be remembered that ivory was sourced for the art from dead tuskers. The traditional Lankan artisan did not warrant the poaching of wild elephants for this purpose, although the practice was introduced by the colonial rulers and tragically continued to date,” says the Assistant Director of Zoology, Department of National Museum, Lankani Somarathna.

The exhibition also draws increased public attention to the problem of elephants being killed for their tusks. “Tuskers are killed in large numbers today in search of elephant pearls and their tusks but little do these poachers know that only a handful of them actually have this and many die in vain,” says Ms. Somarathna.

The exhibition features a collection of selected exhibits which are not among Colombo Museum’s permanent exhibition collection, including a delicately designed statue of God Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi, replicas of stupas dating back to the 17th century and an elaborately designed handloom shuttle. There is also a rare collection of sea shells, including a collection donated by the celebrated diver, late Rodney Jonklaas. All these are from the Zoology Division of the Museum. Apart from the permanent exhibits which the public gets to see, the Museum is also a repository to an extensive collection, some of which is showcased from time to time through temporary exhibitions.

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