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.

Cultural context


Iconographic meaning

The partly closed eye on the left suggests that this mask represents Kana Sanni, the demon of blindness, who can cause humans to have difficulty in seeing. Red-rimmed eyes may indicate their soreness. The mask's gray-green or blue colour may symbolize the foreign and/or disease-causing status of the demon. The diadem and its yellow colour (representing gold or brass) may indicate royalty.

Physical description

Mask depicting Kanna Sanniya (which represents blindness) with a dark grey-green face, small ears, pursed red lips outlined in black, a straight nose with red nostrils, and a three-lobed dark yellow crown with a black design. The eyes are red-rimmed and outlined in black, and the mask's right eye is smaller than the left, which bulges outwards. There is a hole behind each ear through which thin string is threaded and then tied at the rear. A label on the reverse reads, "KANNA SANNI: blindness" and the number "19" has been scratched out and the number "20" written beside it.