Cultural Memory and Identity: Folk Life Associated with the Rush and Reed Industry in Sri Lanka
Among the rural industries in Sri Lanka, the rush and reed industry occupies a rather significant place due to the prominence it gives to making equipment and items related to village life, such as watti, petti, paduru (mats), gamanmalu (bags), hambili (small purses), paha (strainer) etc. The raw materials used to make these items are plant products such as potta, una, bata, wewal, kiriwal, kithul raen; rush and reed types such as hana, niyanda, thunhiriya, gallaha, borupan, wetakeyya, dunukeyya, elupan, hambu and the leaves of plants such as indi, pol, thal, thala. Here the rush and reed industry based on aquatic reed plants and Wetakeyya is taken into focus. The aim of the research is to study the folk life associated with this industry. This is a qualitative research and with purposive sampling, the research area was focused on the Bentara, Dombagawatta village in the Gonagalapura area in the Galle district. Four formal and nine informal interviews, participation observations, listening to folksongs and literary sources were the main data collection techniques used. Reeds, which are naturally found as a plant are subjected to a delicate and eco-friendly process to arrive at the end product. The said process is divided into three main parts; cutting and collecting reeds, drying the reeds in the sun at a time that dew is present in the atmosphere and applying colors to the reeds using plant based colors. The patterns used to decorate the reed products in the present are those which have been carried out for generations. Traditional methods and knowledge, as well as modern methods can be identified in these process. This industry faces difficulties such as the lack of raw materials, skilled labour and a proper market for the products. By giving proper recognition to those participating in this industry, the eco-friendly nature of the industry and getting aid from the Government will help in sustaining this traditional industry.
Keywords: Rush and Reed industry, Folklife, Folksongs, Padura, Eco-friendly products