A different kind of map
Ever since Ptolemy crated a rudimentary map of the world, Man has
been making maps of the world he lives in. We are all familiar with the
globe, that spherical representation of the world. Today, satellites
that orbit high above the earth help map the world almost to the nearest
centimetre in super high resolution. Map making has thus become a very
technologically advanced craft.
But maps are not all about geography. If you use a navigation system
in your vehicle, you will be familiar with 3D maps of streets and other
features such as buildings. Apart from geographical information, maps
can be used to denote many other parameters and indicators. For example,
a map can be used to show where dengue is prevalent in Sri Lanka and
South Asia. Another map can show the television transmitters around the
country. private companies regularly use maps to show their customers
where their offices are.
These maps do not have to be complex or even conform to a scale. What
really matters is the information contained within.
The benefits of using a map are obvious. Almost anyone can read a
map. The information is presented at a glance and there is no need to
read through a long text to get the message. All you need is a so-called
legend to denote the highlights of the map which are usually colour
coded for easy comprehension.
This is why more government and private sector agencies worldwide are
turning to maps to get their information and message across to the
public. Furthermore, they can easily be updated when new information
Apart from displaying printed maps at various urban and rural
locations, they can be uploaded to the Internet, to be accessed by
anyone having an internet connection anywhere in their world. A map well
done tells a story that would be difficult to explain otherwise and is
the ideal medium to reach out to more people.
It is in this context that we commend the Traditional Industries and
Small Enterprise Development Ministry for initiating a “handicraft map”
in collaboration with the Indian High Commission which will sponsor the
event. The Daskari Heart Society in New Delhi will provide assistance
and guidance for this worthy project.
This is a novel idea that will help both Sri Lankans and foreign
visitors to know at a glance the places where authentic handicrafts are
turned out. The map will be drawn by national award winner and National
Craft Council's registered artist Jagath Jayasooriya.
According to Ministry officials, the main objectives of drawing a
handicraft map is to indicate the distribution areas, traditional and
modern industries countrywide and show hereditary villages specialised
in certain handicrafts and workshops. The latter is very important as
there are many villages in Sri Lanka which still specialise in certain
handicrafts - for example, Pilimathalawa is famous for brass items while
Ambalangoda is reputed for masks. The other main objective is to attract
local and foreign tourists.
It is surprising that no one had come up with this idea earlier, but
a start has been made and we hope the map would be available soon
islandwide. Right now, most people have no clear idea where various
handicrafts are made. There are many who would like to visit these
villages, meet the craftspersons, see them at work and of course, buy a
few authentic items as well. This map will enable tourists to draw up an
itinerary to visit the various crafts villages around the island.
The map could eventually evolve into a brochure that summarises the
spread of handicraft villages in the country with more details on their
origin and price guidelines. In this regard it is vital to include any
crafts villages in the North and the East, emerging into the limelight
after 30 years of terrorism. They should be integrated to the national
craft supply chain as much as possible. The map will also help locals
who want to see the craft villagers in action and buy products from the
artisans themselves instead of purchasing them from a shop.
Talking of the latter option, all should laud the role played by
Laksala, the Government-owned handicraft emporium which now has several
ultra-modern showrooms that attract locals and tourists alike.
Unlike in the past, shopping is a pleasure at the well-lit and
spacious new showrooms of Laksala. The sales persons too are very
knowledgeable and helpful. There is ample parking space at every
showroom, which enables customers to browse and buy products without any
Today, Laksala deals with nearly 3,500 leading master
craftsmen/entrepreneurs who produce handicraft items at cottage industry
level. A little known fact about Laksala is that it is just not another
showroom - it has 140 training centres, 23 sales outlets and 14
provincial purchasing points. Naturally, Laksala showrooms will provide
an ideal platform to display the handicraft map.
The map should be posted online on the Laksala website and other
relevant websites maintained by the Government. It should also be
provided to guidebook publishers such as Lonely Planet and Rough Guides
for inclusion in their upcoming editions.
The authorities should also give serious thought to making “A Sri
Lanka handicrafts” App for iOs, Android, Windows8 and Blackberry
smart-phones and other devices (such as the iPad, Samsung Tab) which can
contain the map and all other relevant information. If combined with GPS
and Augmented Reality information, it can even guide tourists to
handicraft sales centres and villages. The involvement of the Government
of India as well as an Indian organisation with experience in this field
is highly significant. As a country with a booming handicraft industry,
there are many lessons that we can draw from India.
Moreover, our craftspersons can easily relate to the culture and
practices of their craftspersons and it will no doubt lead to a very
fruitful collaboration. It may also lead to more training opportunities
for our craftsmen and women. We hope that other government agencies will
emulate this fine example and initiate projects that help their core