Euphracia project

Denzil discovers traditional handicrafts that his grandmother produced in the 1920s and 1930s, almost a century ago.

uphracia is my grandmother, my mother’s mum. Her full name is Dona Euphracia Hamine. She was the youngest daughter of an established family from Mabima, a rural village some twenty kilometres from Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. Born in 1905, she was young at twenty when she married my grandfather.

Life was not kind to Euphracia. While her children were young, she became sick and was put in a mental asylum. She was thirty-five then, and my mother, her second child was eight years. Euphracia languished in the asylum in her prime for a long, long twenty-five years. She missed out a lot and could not be part of seeing her children growing up. When she was sixty, my mother, now a wife with three children brought her from the asylum to our home to live with us.

My memories of Euphracia are shrouded by my struggles to understand and cope with her mental sickness. As a ten-year-old, I found it hard to accept that my grandmother was not normal.

Now more than a half-century later, I am older and wiser. I can unravel Euphracia’s young life before that wretched sickness denied her a good life. Fortunately for me, my discoveries were helped by stories, well-preserved artefacts and records from my parent’s generation.

Euphracia had a natural flair for handicrafts and stitching She was good with her hands. She was good at using her needles. She was creative.

She may have used crafting to relax and be present; she may not have known it but my Euphracia was onto something pretty groovy whenever she sat down to stitch. She had three children, a busy husband and a big household to run while she produced these cool hand-crafted works.

This is a head veil worn by Denzil’s maternal great grandmother, Anna Ranasinghe, in the late 1800s, mother of Euphracia. It is possible Eupharcia learnt her cloth craft from her mother. Preserved and gifted to Denzil by his aunt Mary Catherine Jayawardane
A cloth work by Euphracia dated 30th May 1929; On top is Ave Maria and a rosary. Euphracia was a strong Catholic. She was 24 years old at the time of making this.

Euphracia must have spent hours with needle and thread-making this artwork on cloth. She would have given new life and a tiny slice of her life to this piece of cloth, lovingly stitched with care and perfection.

Wooden bobbins were used by Euphracia to make lace. Preserved by Euphracia’s daughter, my mother and handed to me for preservation.

Euphracia was also good at making bobbin lace. Unfortunately, I do not have any of her completed work. The process of making, bobbin lace, known as beeralu in Sri Lanka required a lot of time and effort.

These are the bobbins that Euphracia used. They have been moulded by her touch before the dreadful sickness crippled her life, awfully.

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Lifelong learner, tech enthusiast, photographer, occasional artist, servant leader, avid reader, storyteller and more recently a budding writer

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Denzil Jayasinghe

Lifelong learner, tech enthusiast, photographer, occasional artist, servant leader, avid reader, storyteller and more recently a budding writer