About this object

History of use

Worn during curing ritual of the Sanni Yakuma ceremony, part of the Tovil series of dramas performed by Sinhalese ritual specialists and dancers. The Sanni Yakuma is intended to combat diseases and afflictions caused by the Sanni group of demons. These consist of 18 or more apparitions of the chief demon, Maha-kola-sanni. The officiating healer honours Buddha, then appeases the demons with offerings, dancing, and chanting. This mask represents Demala Sanni, the demon causing the affliction of hallucinations and bad dreams.

Cultural context


Physical description

Mask depicting Demala Sanniya (which represents hallucinations and bad dreams, or madness and distortion of the body) with a brown-grey face, a twisted pink and red turban in relief. There are three horizontal red stripes at centre of forehead. The mask also has black arched eyebrows, bulbous eyes that each have a crescent-shaped slit below them, wrinkled cheeks and red flared nostrils. There is a hole in each ear through which has been threaded dark brown thread. The mouth is open, with red lips, and teeth painted white with black lines. There are holes above the upper lip and along the jaw chin with remnants of hair-like fibres in them. Label on reverse reads, "DEMALA SANNI: Hallucinations, bad dreams," and has "15" written in pencil. Underneath this label is a label fragment that reads, "hallucinations" that has been handwritten in blue ink.