“The Last Loom”
Sulari De Silva（Division of Global Area Studies）
This is Ashoka. He is an artisan descended from a lineage of traditional weavers in Sri Lanka. This weaving tradition which is known as ‘Dumbara Weaving’ has existed in a small village in the Dumbara Valley in the central hills of Sri Lanka for about six centuries. Now this community is limited to only ten families.
This is what Asoka told me the last time I met him, “The oldest pit-loom in our house was taken to the newly built museum three years ago…In fact, only a few parts of this loom are made permanently. In that old loom, those parts were made of rare wood and decorated with floral carvings. So, I was reluctant to donate it to the museum. But then I thought, ‘It will be preserved there for some time, also, anyone can see it’…I was the one who prepared the loom in the museum. My pictures are also displayed there.”
“This is a new loom I recently made in the same way.” At present, Ashoka is the only one among these artisans who can weave with this loom.
I felt that the day was not far off when another kind of primeval way of making goods would be confined to a museum space.
Photo 1: Ashoka is weaving a shawl on his pit-loom.
Photo 2: Instead of the foot-treadles, there are two coconut shells hanging on ropes.
Photo 3: A part of the shawl Ashoka is weaving.
Photo 4: A century-old bedcloth woven on a pit-loom.
Photo 5: Another antique coverlet.