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. Mask represents Murtu Sanni, one of the 18 demons.

Cultural context


Physical description

Mask most likely depicting Murtu Sanniya (which represents swooning and fainting spells), but it could also be Kana Sanni (which represents blindness). The face is painted brown, the eyes have black pupils with drooping white eyelids outlined in red and black, the eyebrows are high arches, and there is an indentation between the eyes. There are crescent-shaped slits below the eyes, the nose has red nostrils, and the lips are also painted red. There is a hole on either side at the temples through which is threaded a white fabric strap. Label reads: "(Most probably) MURTU SANNI: swooning & fainting spells; but could be KANA: blindness" in typed letters, and "21" is written in the bottom corner of the label.