‘A brush with art V’ showcases artists of all ages

By Lakna Paranamanna
“Paintings have a life of their own that derives from the painter’s soul.” – Vincent Van Gogh.
the ability to paint, they say is a gift of God because mastering it is quite a difficult task to do.

Kumari De Alwis is an artist who mastered this craft and has been passing on that gift to many who are keen in the field, for nearly 20 years. Throughout these many years of her career, teaching in Sri Lanka as well as several other countries like Pakistan and Germany, she must have moulded countless artists and helped to groom their talents. As a part of her venture she organises an exhibition of paintings to showcase the talents of her students.

‘A Brush With Art V’ – is an exhibition that will be featuring paintings of artists of a wide range of ages. However, their differences in age don’t seem to have posed an obstacle to their talent. Most of the paintings seemed to bear an influence of western themes and landscapes. Calm and serene lakes with fields that stretch out as far as your eyes can see, a gigantic ship anchored in a sea and ruins of our historic cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, that capture the majesty of that long gone dynasty.

Ramani Fernando had been always a very passionate lover of art. She had been able to bring out that passion in a more fruitful manner after her encounter with this wonderful teacher. “I have been studying under her right throughout.

I am so fortunate to have trained under such a teacher, because more than teaching she inspires us and draws out the best in us”, said Fernando.

This exhibition features her collection of work for the past three years. She said that she likes painting landscapes most of all, and her favourite medium is oil paints, because she is able to bring out the texture of the landscapes she draws in a more effective way.

Hiranthi Jayasekara said that she had never been particularly interested in drawing. “I was continuing lessons on pottery when my friend told me about this teacher and I felt as if I wanted to try her out,” recalled Jayasekara. She has been continuing lessons with Kumari for nearly four years now. She said that she has developed a liking towards painting portraits, pointing at an oil painting she had done of a lady who was sitting near a fire place.

Some of the artists, have been keen fans of art since their childhoods while some others had developed a knack for it only after trying it out.

But they all share one thing in common: the passion to learn something new everyday.
Chandani Mudalige, Srimathi Jayasuriya, Ilma Fhazi and Samantha Serasinghe are some of the new faces at this exhibition. They said that this is the first time that they would be displaying their paintings in an exhibition. They have all mastered oil paints under Kumari and said that they are really excited about the exhibition.

‘A Brush With Art V’ will be held at the Lionel Wendt on the June 28th and 29th and will be open to all the lovers of art from 10.00 a.m . - 8.00 p.m on each day.


Transforming thoughts into forms

He is a very simple man. He thinks simply, also he acts simply. He contrives simple thoughts, being firmly rooted in our own culture. He transforms those thoughts into forms utilising simple material – paper and ballpoint pen. Those forms fall into the artistic genre of line-drawings. Those line-drawings penetrate the eye, mind and mind’s eye of a lover of art as they are compelling pieces of art. The man behind the creation of these art pieces is Chandana Ranaweera, who is fondly referred to by his fans as ‘Chandana.’

Chandana hails from Alawwa, a well-known township in the Kurunegala District.
He is currently getting ready for his forthcoming art exhibition. He hopes to showcase around 30 pieces of line-drawings at this event, which is to take place in Colombo, towards the latter part of this year.

D.M. Gunaratne
A lover of art


B.C holds Int’l Young Fashion Entrepreneur award for 2nd time

The British Council Sri Lanka announced the International Young Fashion Entrepreneur (IYFE) award 2009 for the second consecutive year last week.

Acting Director of the British Council, Duncan Wilson said that the main reason for organising an event of this sort was to offer opportunities and develop the next generation of the fashion world and the business in Sri Lanka. “Sri Lanka has a very strong chance of competing and that is why we thought of bringing down this event for the second time in Sri Lanka,” added Wilson.

The IYFE offers an exciting opportunity to a young Sri Lankan entrepreneur in the 25 to 35 age category in the field of fashion. This award forms part of a global British Council award which seeks to champion and celebrate the importance of creative entrepreneurs working in the field of fashion. Participants can be drawn from various areas of the Fashion sector including fashion textile, accessories productions and design, fashion promotion, fashion marketing, fashion publishing for this award.

The First National winner of the IYFE award 2008, which was held last year, was Darshi Keerthisena. She said that this opportunity gave her a chance to carry the Batik industry of Sri Lanka into another level and also the publicity and the credibility to take it to an international level. “I got the chance to meet one of the pioneers of the fashion world on the tour to London, Sir Paul Smith. Those are once-in-a- lifetime opportunities. I consider myself very lucky to have been able to get the chance to attend the London Fashion Week,” added Keerthisena with a big smile.

She said that it was very inspiring to listen to the seminars and the lectures that they attended and to know that even those pioneers of the field had started off with a small boutique of clothes before hitting the International arena of fashion. She further said that the tour also gave her an opportunity to create business partnerships with other contestants around the globe. This year too, the Sri Lankan winner will be one of the ten international finalists that would participate in the IYFE and will compete in London for the title of the International Young Fashion Entrepreneur 2009.

For more information on the IYFE award, eligibility, entry details and application forms, log on to www.britishcouncil.org/srilanka-arts-and-culture-iyfe09 or call Ranmaal 4521542 or Ranmali 4521538 .The closing date for the applicants of the IYFE awards will be September 15th 2008. LP


The Shattered Earth - By P.G. Punchihewa

Reviewed by Carol Aloysius

Of the many years that P.G. Punchihewa, a former Civil Servant spent in some of the remotest and undeveloped villages in Sri Lanka, his three year period ( 1967-70) of service, as G.A. in the Moneragala district, was perhaps his most enduring memory.
This brief period, provided him the inspiration, material and background for ‘The Shattered Earth’, his latest English publication. The book is a translation of his Sinhala version, Gana Bol Polowa.

The story revolves around a single character Kirisanda, a chena cultivator. Yet, in a broader sense, it is the story of the poverty stricken, landless, peasants of Wellassa and their struggle to withstand the onslaught of external forces, that came in the guise of development.

Narrating the story, as seen through the eyes of the most hard working peasant in the village, Kirisanda, gives immediacy and relevance to the pathetic plight of the peasants. Like the rest of the villagers, Kirisanda also falls victim to the development oriented policies of the Government, implemented through Colombo based entrepreneurs, backed by bureaucracy.

How was Moneragala forty years ago?. Moneragala, with its land area of 2785 sq. miles, was then the second largest administrative district in the island. Economically and socially, it was also the poorest, with the minimum of amenities.

“The entire district had only 165 schools with a ratio of one per 17 square miles. The district hospital had one doctor, two apothecaries and no nurses, while the nearest base hospital in Badulla was 40 miles away. Neither pipe borne water, nor electricity was available in the town and the villages.

The area under irrigated paddy was only 6000 acres, with the total area under paddy cultivation being less than 20,000 acres. The majority of the population depended on chena cultivation,” is how the author describes this bleak, neglected district, in his opening chapter.

To fast track the development process, and help the villagers, the Government decided to bring in private entrepreneurs. This modernisation effort, however had repercussions on the hapless villagers, who were unaware about the adverse effects, it could bring about. In the process, they lost their only and traditional source of income and sustenance, their paddy lands and their homes, in which they had lived for generations.

For Kirisanda the change was especially traumatic. As the “ best chena cultivator in the entire village”, he, more than other villagers, was passionately attached to his chena, which he had cultivated with loving care.
It was an attachment that had grown and nurtured for many years.

“ From the days of his father, he had been in and out of the chena, which his father cultivated, At first, he accompanied his father for fun. But now it was his livelihood and a must.”

Like most of the villagers, Kirisanda, a father of four children, two boys and two girls, had only one thing to offer his children, as security for the future; the piece of crown land he had inherited from his father. The land, a grant from the government, however, came with certain stipulations; it couldn’t be sub divided and could only go to one male member of the family.

“ I nominated the elder son to inherit the two acres. If I fail to educate the younger one, what will happen to him? These lands are given under a permit and cannot be sub divided. What will happen to my wife, if I predecease her?” Kirisanda asks himself, when he hears the bad news.

It was thus not surprising that, he refused to give it up- even to the new Company which had purchased it in the name of ‘Development’, and in spite of assurances from the G.A. to allay his fears..
“ But Hamuduruwane, we don’t want them to be given our land. Our children will not be left even with an inch of land”, he pleads with the G.A., who he goes to meet in his office.

“ No that won’t happen. According to the file. there is still land available for the villagers.”
It turned out that this assurance too, was another false promise. For unknown to them, their fate had already been sealed.
“ Hamuduruwane, Mantrithuma (MP) told us that, he will see that this land is not released to the company”.
The GA suppressed a smile. The decision to lease two thousand acres had already been made by the Ministry of Lands in Colombo.

“ I will reply to the Manthrithuma. I will ask the D.R.O Mahatthaya to look into this.” .
The G.A, , as well as the Company which had bought the land, on the other hand, genuinely believed that, the development process was for the good of the villagers, even though they did not know this. After his meeting with Kirisanda, he told himself, “ If the Company restored the tank, it will benefit the entire village. They will have adequate and a regular supply of water to bathe and drink. The Company will improve the road leading to the village. The villagers will be able to sell their produce at a higher price, to the traders”...

Kirisanda’s final appeal was to the Gramasevaka.
“ Ralahamy can’t they leave my plot and take the rest?”, he asks him.
“ I don’t think they’ll agree. Those gentleman want to clear about 500 acres , at one stretch. They say it is not possible to leave patches here and there.”

Kirisanda’s reply is both poignant and shows his willingness, to take a stand as a lone crusader, for his rights.
“ Ralahamy you are worried about the losses to those gentlemen. There is nobody to worry about us, who live by tilling the hard earth. I will not leave my chena until I pick the last chili. If their tractor goes over my chena it will be over my dead body”.

Apart from losing their chenas and their paddy lands, they become victims of a culture shock. An outside gang of labourers from Gampaha are brought into the village to help clear the chenas. Their city oriented ideas, clash with the simple rustic values of the villagers. The workers also pose a threat to the young girls, when they begin teasing and ogling them, when they come to bathe in the village tank.

The modesty of the simple village folk is further outraged, by their skimpy modern bathing suits .“ How can our women go and bathe among them, when we also feel too shy, to do so? Their underwear is not like our amude. It exposes more than what it covers.” This whisper by middle aged Dingiriya in Ausadhamy’s ear, sums up the fears and anxieties of the villagers.

Punchihewa’s book is a wealth of interesting, useful and little known facts about village life, in the far flung districts of Sri Lanka. It also gives the reader, a rare insight of a country in transition. Written at the time, when the country was still experimenting with various methods, to replace the traditional slash and burn cultivation methods of chena cultivators like Kirisanda, with more scientific agricultural methods, we get an insight both into the difficulties, that those early crusaders of development faced ; and the tribulations the peasantry underwent because of that process.

Punchihewa’s book with its appropriate cover photo of an abandoned chena, by well known photographer Nihal Fernando, is above everything else, a valuable sociological document. It deserves pride of place in all educational and research institutes.