Sri Lankan Collection

Sri Lankan Collection

An appreciation of textile art through the ages

The creation of textiles in Sri Lanka dates back to the very beginning of our recorded history. Prince Vijaya, the first Sinhalese King of Sri Lanka, arrived in the country from India and was greeted by the sight of Kuveni, a Yakkhini, who was engaged in the act of spinning cotton thread.

Today, much like in ancient times, textiles remain a highly valued aspect in Sri Lanka’s economic and cultural spheres. Choosing a textile art form that resonates deeply with our Island, Rithihi features a pure silk Batik saree from Ohé Island, a canvas of burgundy that plays to our most primal emotions with drops of white moonlight scattered across the body and pallu.

Travelling north, we are met by the revival of Kolam, another age-old dyeing technique, which birthed a flourishing industry in Jaffna during Dutch rule. Deeply traditional and proudly Sri Lankan, Rithihi’s new Kolam Saree Collection, turns to natural dyes drawn from flowers, roots and fruits of herbs for its varied palette. Neer Eluththu or ‘Water writing’ and Melugu Eluththu or ‘Wax writing’, describe the traditional methods used for dyeing. Our collection consists of sarees produced from Water writing. Each garment, bold in its own individuality, is a tangible expression of feeling and emotion. Once dyed, each saree offers a unique canvas for hand drawn images, which are guided by the textures that result from many layers of dye.

Showcasing the ancient Japanese technique that binds cultures across space and time, Rithihi embraces the art of Shibori, through a collection that extends from sarees to toiletry bags. Shibori refers to the manipulation of cloth through tying, stitching, knotting or twisting. The cloth is then dyed and finally, unfolded, to reveal a kaleidoscope of colours and patterns.

When celebrating that which is deeply Sri Lankan, one keeps coming back to the unique dyeing technique that is an art form synonymous with the country and its culture. Today, Batik garments can be found around the country, limitless in their varied colours and designs. However, it is one individual who deserves credit for resurrecting Batik from its dying embers; and that is the masterful, Ena de Silva.

Ena de Silva Collection & Aluwihare Centre

Known for her rebellious and spirited personality, Ena de Silva gave herself permission to choose her own path and in doing so, she transformed the entire textile industry of Sri Lanka.

With just a set of instructions from the Encyclopedia Britannica to guide her, Ena set out to learn the art of Batik. Through trial and error, patience and understanding, Ena mastered the art form and set it on a course to become one with the Sri Lankan identity.

Ena conceptualised and crafted a number of sarees over the years: simple Batik cotton sarees, highly intricate Appliqué work and combinations of the two. She experimented with techniques like Cutwork, Batik, Embroidery, Crochet, Appliqué and Bandhini among others. Her two most favoured expressions became Batik and Embroidery; which often made an appearance in the garments and homeware she designed.

Ena developed a special fondness for the ‘Osariya’, which by reinventing time and time again, she made current and fashionable. Her innovative approach to this traditional dress was perhaps Ena de Silva’s most important contribution to modern Sri Lankan culture.

In the 1980’s, Ena returned to her hometown in rural Matale, where she set up the Matale Heritage Centre. It was renamed The Aluwihare Heritage Centre after her passing, to honour her family and the village. The workshop provided employment for many rural workers, whom she trained in skills like carpentry, brass foundry and Batik. She gave priority to female workers, as a way of empowering women.

The Aluwihare Heritage Centre, continues to be a vibrant hive of activity, providing a glimpse into the colourful world of the iconic Sri Lankan artist. The Centre is dedicated to preserving and continuing the legacy of Ena de silva by keeping alive cherished Sri Lankan art forms and striving to provide opportunities for women in rural communities.

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