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Beeralu lace making (Renda)
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Author:  Rohan2 [ Sat Nov 18, 2006 5:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Beeralu lace making (Renda)

Beeralu lace making

In Sri Lanka the lace bone is known as Beeralu and the cushion on which lace patterns are worked out as Beeralu Kotte Different designs produced on the bottom of the lace is called Beeralu Mostara in Sinhalese. Mostara is the Portuguese expression of 'design'. The art of lace-making was introduced by the Portuguese and has been traditionally handed down from mother to daughter.


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Sources - DM / CDN
Brian Tissera, Dr. M.H. Goonatilleka


Many years ago, lace making, Renda is its name in local parlance, had been a lucrative domestic occupation in the villages situated along the southern littoral belt especially Ambalangoda, Balapitiya, Dodanduwa, Galle, Habaraduwa and the hinterland.

The name Renda is Portuguese in origin simply refers to 'lace maker' and it is a purely traditional domestic industry much sought after by the tourists travelling to Vienna de Costello, Vila do Conde and Peniche in Portugal. It which is Portuguese in origin.

(There is another expression in Sinhala, Renda - Rala which means toddy or arrack renter which is not connected with the lace making industry either.)

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Some of the museums in Portugal, such as the museum of popular art (Museu arte popular) display specimens of the articles used in lace making. These are well presented.

For instance, the bobbins are referred to as BILRU (pronounced Beeralu). In Sri Lanka the lace bone is known as Beeralu and the cushion on which lace patterns are worked out as Beeralu Kotte Different designs produced on the bottom of the lace is called Beeralu Mostara in Sinhalese. Mostara is the Portuguese expression of 'design'.

Beeralu lace making was introduced to Sri Lanka by the Portuguese in the 16th century and developed by the Dutch in the 17th century. It gained recognition as a national craft of women living on the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka.

It was a flourishing and profitable hobby with a keen demand for exquisite designs that were painstakingly created by nimble fingers. However, with time, middlemen entered the trade and this resulted in minimum income for the end producer of the lace.

Older residents said that many women could be seen seated amidst the sailing boats and catamarans silently creating the most beautiful designs while waiting for the menfolk to return from sea.

The art of beeralu was handed over from generation to generation to the third and fourth generation and served to augment the family income, while providing satisfaction to the lacemaker herself as she rolled out yard after yard of uniquely created designs.

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However, with the introduction of the open economy in 1977 and a surplus of employment opportunities for women, village women left their homes to work in factories. Beeralu lace making became almost extinct, save for those who produced lace for their personal use. It became a tradition of the past. The only evidence was souvenirs of lace produced by past generations and the required equipment lying around their homes, gathering dust and cobwebs.

The tsunami of December 2004 washed away everything. People ran from their homes with only what they were wearing. Some were a little luckier and collected a few bits and pieces of what they owned before they ran out of their homes to save themselves from a watery death.

While these women were housed in temporary abodes they had nothing to work on except memories of the past. It was at this time that the South Asia Partnership Sri Lanka (SAPSRI) visited these tsunami affected areas and volunteered to help the victims return to normalcy.

SAPSRI was informed of the capabilities of the beeralu lace makers and promptly made their lives productive again. They were provided with the necessary yarn and the required equipment for making the lace.

In association with the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, the beeralu lace makers of Mirissa near Matara were motivated, guided and instructed to produce more sophisticated designs and move from using the "raw" off-white yarn to a range of colours, progressing to multicoloured creations.

SAPSRI has worked out a scheme where the lace makers would receive double the remuneration and added incentives as well. The current production of the lace is being done for exhibition and sale at "Paramparaven" to be held at the Galle Face Hotel on November 24 and 25.

Exposure to the export market and new corporate customers is one of the main objectives of Paramparaven, a SAPSRI spokesperson said.

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