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.
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
“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.
residents prepare for Independence Day
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
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
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
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