Uplifting Koulara village pottery industry

By Sarashi Samarasinghe
Koulara is a very remote village that is in close proximity to the Udawalawe National Park in Sri Lanka.
This rural community has faced tremendous hardships with the loss of their traditional livelihood over twenty years ago. These villagers, who were skilled in brick making, were forced out of that occupation due to their inability to compete with more efficient and large scale brick making plants elsewhere and they had little option but to resort to poorly paid menial labour at the local sugarcane plantation.

Merril J Fernando (MJF) Charitable Foundation adopted the isolated and deprived village of Koulara, within its ‘Local Heroes’ initiative with the objective to empower them in a more sustainable and rewarding livelihood.
The ‘Animal Tracks’ pottery project which was introduced to Koulara combining livelihood enhancement, empowerment of women and environmental sustainability in a multifaceted project.

The MJF Foundation initiated the project together with its resource partners International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Department of Wildlife Conservation to combine resources in uplifting this impoverished community.
This unique endeavour known as the ‘Animal Tracks’ pottery project has restored to the Koulara community their traditional pottery skills, but for the production of high value ornaments and souvenirs instead of bricks.
The project which was introduced to the village community of Koulara two years ago, sought to encourage the community to abandon unskilled labour occupations and embrace a more sustainable and rewarding livelihood, that involves a revival of their ancient tradition.

The villagers are provided training in pottery through the guidance of an MJF Foundation Resource Person Ajith Perera, one of Sri Lanka’s most talented pottery craftsmen.
For nearly two years, Ajith has guided the Koulara community in the art of pottery and today, this simple village community produces exquisite items, which are valued by consumers around the world made available through the Dilmah marketing network.

Today, this rural community is transformed and their creativity and talent is appreciated around the world.
The continuing commitment of the Foundation in uplifting the lives of the Koulara community was demonstrated in the special tea pot sale and exhibition conducted in association with the Hilton Colombo.

“Each of the 200 tea pots that were displayed at the Hilton Colombo lobby are the handcrafted creations of Ajith Perera, master potter and mentor to the Koulara community,” said General Manager (GM) of Hilton, Jerome Auvity.
According to Auvity, each and every teapot is unique which are all made out of clay.
“We are selling these pots for a minimum price of Rs.3,000 where all proceeds from the sale of these teapots would be channeled toward the construction of a pre-school for the children of Koulara,” said Auvity.


 Exhibition of Paintings by Sujith Rathnayake

Here and There

May 13 – June 5 at The Alliance Française Auditorium

My father is a rural artist. I had a great interest in art from my childhood but my art life became static and passive towards 2004. While I was stuck between desire and fear, I experienced the December 2004 Tsunami disaster in Tangalle. Afterwards, I felt so isolated. The sky, the Earth and the moon were the only witnesses of my plight. Time was killing all my feelings.

This exhibition is called ‘Here and There’ not because it represents art works that I did at different moments of my life as they were mostly created in Colombo. I would also like to say that this exhibition also doesn’t represent the theme of an evasive life and it is not a retrospective. These are 24 art works that are very special to me, selected among thousands of works that I have created since 1996. They are so different from the other and I believe that they have a certain “Montage Harmony” in them.
As part of cultural life, even cleaning the drains is considered as a form of art today. It is also a terrorist act to make people believe that there is no line of separation between what Art is and what is not. It is an act of sabotage on the free society which surpasses individuality. Magnifying a plug to the size of a ship is not art but a gimmick.

This exhibition doesn’t present art works that were painted to create a new trend or even to be exhibited. My signature and the date are not mentioned on some of these paintings. In some of the 1996 works my signature is different.

I can only develop these styles but I cannot reproduce because reproducing art is a business where the artistic value is lost. I really understood the true meaning of history after the Tsunami. History is absurd... The same people who coexist with us have their own personal project which has become their passion. Up until now no one has been able to have an influence on my own art.
Sujith Rathnayake


Office-bearers of the Institute of Western Music and Speech for 2009/2010

At the Annual General Meeting of the Institute of Western Music and Speech, Sri Lanka held recently, the following were elected to hold office for the year 2009/2010.

Bernadette de Soyza - Chairperson - Examinations Board

Regina Sathasivam - Vice President (Music)

Louisa David - Vice President (Speech)

Faria Salie - Vice President (Social Activities)

Sharmalene Mendis - Hon General Secretary

Genevieve Rodrigopulle - Hon Treasurer

Maureen Silva - Hon Secretary- Examinations Board
Lilani Peiris

Council Members
Sneha Appathurai
Shiranee Dabare
Prema Ratnayake
Priyanthika Wickramasinghe

Mary V. Fernando
Neluka Nanayakkara
Suhashini Victoria
C. Nilrukshi Foenander

Examinations Board
Regina Sathasivam - Chairperson
Bernadette de Soyza - President
Lilani Peiris - Hon Secretary -Examinations Board

Board Members Music
Lakshmi Abeygunasekera
Sheryl Perera
Ramani Soysa

Patricia de Silva
Janaki Wanasinghe
Geetha Wedage

Board of Trustees
Wimala Niles
Iris Tillekeratne
Indranee Hapugalle