Young designer Michael Wijesuriya showed his customary flair for elegance in a fashion show of flamboyant bridals and vivid evening wear at the Bridgetine Fair last Sunday at the school hall. Athula Devapriya captured these shots of Wijesuriya's latest collection on the ramp. Pix by Ishara S. Kodikara

Dolls for any occasion
By Esther Williams
The pair of dolls male and female are for prayer - prayer for the happiness of young daughters. A traditional Japanese custom dating back some 1000 years, the Hina Matsuri or Doll Festival is celebrated by families with daughters, on March 3 each year.

Corresponding to this is the Tango or Sekku, the boys' festival that falls on May 5. On this day, families with sons display splendid figures of costumed warriors or dolls in miniature armour as they pray that their sons will grow up strong and healthy. Shapes of prayer, that's how some Japanese dolls are viewed as they are used in prayer for specific purposes.

Dolls have been a part of everyday life in Japan since ancient times. Over the years, they have taken many diverse forms, with distinctive attributes unique to the region they come from. Today they showcase traditional Japanese craft products, such as textiles, along with the culture of the people.

The dolls come in varied forms and costumes. Kimonos made of silk with elaborate embroidery, hairstyles and brilliant costumes depict the styles and fashions of Japanese women. Some display a technique where coloured cloth is pasted onto a wooden doll (Kimekomi). Especially known for their beautiful colours are the clay dolls (Hakata dolls) - the Sumo Wrestler in the Ring being a good example.

Actors wear elaborate costumes as they dance in the Noh region. It is this traditional art form of the 15th century that is depicted in the Noh dolls. Most eye-catching among them are the Oshie Hagoita dolls (Battledores with raised pictures). They look like elaborate placards with stands, with dramatic expressions like cruelty, anger or serenity. These are made with designs cut from thick paper and wrapped in habutae silk containing cotton.

The Imperial Palace dolls (Gosho Ningyo) are the sweet children with large heads and fair skin, while the Ichimatsu dolls realistically depict Japanese children, some showing them in various activities. Made under the Japanese wood turnery technique, the Kokeshi dolls are known for their simplicity and brilliant colours. Round, fat or small, these engraved and baked dolls are a unique work of art. There are also dolls created by modern craftsmen.

Japanese dolls on display here
These unique dolls have been brought to Sri Lanka by the Japanese travelling exhibition that tours the world with the aim of introducing Japanese culture overseas. Organised by the Japanese Foundation, the dolls have been exhibited in several international art exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale, Sao Paulo Biennale and other museums.

Held for the third time in Sri Lanka, the exhibition this year will display around 70 different dolls. The event also commemorates 50 years of diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and Japan.

The exhibition is open to the public, from September 25 to 30 at the Public Library main auditorium between 9.00 a.m. and 6.00 p.m.

The organisers specially invite schoolchildren to this unique opportunity of viewing Japanese culture. "Dolls are not meant for play as in Sri Lanka. They are very expensive ornaments that reflect Japanese traditions like Ikebana or Bonsai," says J. Bandaranaike of the Japanese Embassy.

Explaining the extraordinary quality of these dolls, the Second Secretary, Information and Cultural Affairs, Embassy of Japan, T. Noda said, "These are made by highly skilled craftsmen either in cloth, ceramic, wood, plaster of Paris or a combination of these and are sold to suit different budgets."

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