Directly opposite the large Club Horizon hotel (just east of the Koggala Beach Hotel), the excellent Martin Wickramasinghe Museum (daily 9am-5pm) is inspired by – and pardy devoted to – the life, works and ideas of Martin Wickramasinghe, one of the most important Sinhalese cultural figures of Seventieth century.
The museum comprises several different sections, ranged around grounds full of carefully labeled tropical trees. The excellent Folk Museum houses an absorbing and well-labeled selection of exhibits pertaining to the daily practical or spiritual life of the Sinhalese everything from catching a fish to chasing off malevolent spirits. Religious artifacts fill the first room, ranging from Buddha statuettes to more atavistic devotional objects such as rough clay figurines and cobra figures used as offerings to the gods. Most interesting are the “sand boards”, trays of sand which were used to practice writing – the Sri Lankan equivalent of a blackboard, and one of the museums many examples of simple but elegant local solutions to preindustrial problems. The second room contains agricultural and household utensils including cute wooden and metal cow bells, cunning fish traps, and the wooden rattles and bows and arrows used to scare birds from paddy fields. There’s also an excellent collection of masks, some up to a century old and depicting a range of characters, including an unusual pair of pink-taced British officers, as well as exhibits relating to traditional industries, including rubber collection toddy tapping and cinnamon gathering.