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By Lakna Paranamanna
Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha roadside was a buzz of activity last Sunday as the annual ‘Kala Pola’ open air Art fair commenced. Artists both young and old were there at this gala of arts, with each stall displaying artistry in brushes and paints, and creative handwork of shapes and forms.

Splashes of bright colours, bold attempts at change from the usual notions of art and of traditional styles of painting were exhibited side by side, as the roadside became a kaleidoscope of works and forms of art. D.G. Rasika from Kandy, was one of the first artists I came across, while strolling along the street. Although painting has been one of his long practised hobbies, this is his maiden experience at a Kala Pola.

“I have been painting ever since I was a kid, but I became a professional artist only about four years back,” said Rasika.
Rasika’s paintings featured various themes; wildlife, landscapes and even human figures intricately worked on with delicate brushwork that highlighted long practised skills.

“I paint mostly in hotels and temples. Although, most of the paintings I have featured here are oil paints, my favourite medium is water colours,” he asserted. Rasika’s paintings were priced from Rs 10,000 to Rs 80,000.

“Many people visited my stall and they complimented my work. I feel very fortunate about exhibiting my work here, because this is not only an opportunities to popularise our work, but it is also a wonderful opportunity to widen our contacts,” he added.

It was just after the official opening, so, most of the artists were still setting up their stalls and the smell of new paint wafted all around. Sculptures of bronze and gold featuring famous personalities by excellent craftsmanship, intricate pencil sketches of trees, vast canvases boasting of bright colours, stood up against the green fence that bordered Viharamahadevi Park and the road. Chairman- George Keyt Foundation, Cedric De Silva, who was admiring the activity said that he feels a proud sense of accomplishment to see artistes from all over the country gathered at one place to exhibit their work.

“Today, we have about 250 registered participants, as well as about 100 other participants who have not registered, exhibiting their work. Kala Pola is an event where we provide unlimited possibilities for amateur artistes to exhibit their work and enter the world of professionalism. So, anyone is welcome to join and exhibit their work,” he stated. He also added that, their key initiative through the Kala Pola is for Sri Lanka to gain recognition in the global arena of Art.

“This was and has most often been a place of discovery for artistes. This is the only event where novices as well as professionals come together, and this creates wonderful opportunities for the amateurs in the field,” explained De Silva. Recalling the first KalaPola, De Silva said that his most wonderful memory was when he brought veteran artist George Keyt, whose name he chose for this organisation for artistes, to show him what Kala Pola was all about.

“He was not in a very good health. So, I drove him in the car around the street and he was very happy to see the artistes gathered to exhibit their work,” he said, adding that, in the years to come, his main aim is to improve and expand the initiatives of the Foundation and assist artistes in every possible way to further themselves and their artform.

Walking further down the road, there were lovely oil paintings of flowers. Ivory lilies against a black background. Gold lilies shone brightly against stark white backgrounds. “I am from Kandy. I bring my paintings every weekend to Colombo and exhibit them here,” said Asanga Gunasekara the artist. He is a professional artist and has been in the field for the last six years. “This is a very good opportunity, especially for budding artists to exhibit their work and gain exposure into the world of professional artistes,” he added.

Some stalls featured canvases which bore big bold patterns of abstract art styles. There were others exhibiting art in a new form such as a peacock crafted out of old motorcycle parts.

“I come for the Kala Pola every year and this year some of my friends joined me. I am an art fanatic, so, I always buy at least one painting each year,” said Jeevanthi Perera, who was among the many art lovers present on the occasion.
“Properly used, this opportunity can be the big break for the young artists,” she asserted.

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Vipulasena residents prepare for Independence Day

By Carol Aloysius
With just three days to go before Independence Day, we residents of Vipulasena Mawatha, are now working round the clock to complete the many chores given us by our mutual friend and neighbour Pancha, for this very important and historic event.

This being Pancha’s second Campaign for the new year, ( his first being the HELPING THE HOSPITAL campaign launched last week) he keeps telling us that organising two campaigns within a week-and-a-half, with the year hardly begun, is a promising sign and augurs well for a year full of Campaigns For Worthy Causes.

The residents’ first task was to make the national flag. Each household was asked to make at least one Lion flag. Being a fair minded man, he left the choice of the material for the flag and its size, to us. “Salli thiyana ayata loku kodi redi valin hadanne pulunwei. Bari ayata, paththara valin kodi hadanne puluvan”, (Those of you who have the money can make cloth flags. Others can make paper flags. The choice is yours) he told us.

Not only was Pancha fair minded, he was generous. As he wanted everyone to engage in this exercise and express their patriotic feelings on this historic day, he went about distributing sheets of white paper to those who couldn’t even afford to buy paper to make flags. They included most of the beggars in neighboring lanes, who, he had virtually adopted, after giving them a new lease of life during one of his campaigns, and in addition, gave them paints and crayons to draw the Lion flag, telling them to hang them on lamp posts and any other place close to their pavement homes.

That done, he turned his attention to the next most important item on the programme: the National Anthem. Since some of the residents still did not know all the words of the National Anthem, he took it upon himself to teach them the words.

So, together with his assistant Piyasena, with whom he sat up the whole night laboriously writing out the words of the National Anthem on several sheets of exercise paper, he handed them personally to the residents. The latter were given stern instructions to “hondata kata padam karanne” (memorise them well), so that, they could sing all the verses, “nivaradiva, paththare balanne nathiva” (correctly, and without looking at the written words.)

Once we were word perfect (he made sure of this by calling us one by one to his house and getting us to recite the words), he asked his ragged band of singers to teach them the music, while he acted as the choir master.

For the past few days, rehearsals have been continuing non stop and going on till late in the night. To help the singers keep awake during their long rehearsal, Kopi Kade Sarath has decided to keep his tea boutique open till late, even serving the choristers a free cup of steaming hot plain tea with a bun thrown in to satisfy their hunger pangs.

Since the children down the lane were clamouring to take part in the Independence programme, Pancha decided to give them a lead role in the street parade and pageant he was organising for the occasion. Both the pageant and parade would depict various national leaders who led the movement for Independence, and also showcase our glorious past, he tells them.

Having personally visited some of his affluent business friends, including the shop owners at the Mariakade market, he cajoled them into parting with large sums of cash and raw material for the forthcoming pageant. The task of building the actual floats was assigned to a team of carpenters trained at the Vocational Training School, which Pancha had set up to help keep drug addicts and beggars off the streets, under one of his Campaigns For Worthy Causes.

Being patriotic citizens, they considered their task as a “santhosayen karana kriyawak” (a labour of love). Each creation was a work of art and built for a purpose. The large boats on wheels they were fashioning, were to carry the kings and queens of a bygone era, who had made lasting contributions to our country. The makeshift platforms were to serve as stages on which the early patriotic leaders would stand to deliver their fiery freedom speeches. To add excitement and colour to the pageant, Pancha had also included scenes of our turbulent colonial past. The grand finale, of course, would be the re-enaction of the historic declaration of Independence at the newly built Independence Hall, where the Lion flag was raised for the first time.

As Pancha kept reminding us, “ape ithihasaya gana tharuna kattiya boho denek danne naha. Enisa, me kramayen vath api egoollonta mathak karanne one,” (Many of our younger generation don’t know our historic past. By seeing this pageant, they will learn something about it).

Nowadays, any visitors to Vipulasena Mawatha will be greeted by strange sights and sounds. Their ears will be assailed by the grating sounds of wood being sawed and nails being hammered on floats. And, in contrast to these harsh sounds, they will be able to enjoy the uplifting strains of the National Anthem, sung to the accompaniment of several homemade instruments.
The countdown is now on for Independence Day at Vipulasena Mawatha.

Soon, the lane will be dotted with flags and buntings. The aroma of traditional sweetmeats of kavum , kokis, athira and kiribath will fill the air. This year’s Independence Day will truly be a memorable one for us, I tell my pony tailed neighbour, as he nods in agreement, when I pass him on my way to work…p

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