|Chucking the Dragon
A shot-in-the-arm for Sri Lankan
The much talked about debut novel by Mark Wilde is
certainly not what I personally, or many others from
what I gather, associate with Sri Lanka-based
In the Western world, tales of drug use and
disenfranchised youth are nothing new. (William S.
Burroughs wrote the modern classic Junky about the
American drug culture way back in the 1950s). Though
this tale marks a distinct change of style to the
usual Sri Lankan offerings it steers clear of simply
being an unoriginal, Sri Lankan version of a
particular style of novel.
This of course means that the book may well end
up appealing to a far greater audience, speaking as
it does of a wider experience than merely one only a
Sri Lankan reader can appreciate.
The story is written autobiographically and revolves
around a young guy about to start his education at
Colombo University, with the added problem that he
has lost the love of his life, and the slight hitch
that he is hooked on heroine.
Many have been quick to praise the novel for showing
this side to Sri Lankan urban life that many people
world-wide assume to be a problem that is purely a
Western one; the popular stereotype is that Sri
Lankan misery is purely concerned with sufferings
caused by poverty or the long civil war the island
has endured over past decades.
I wholeheartedly agree with the praise the book
has received though don’t be fooled into thinking
that this some how glorifies drug use in any way,
for though enjoyable to anyone who likes intelligent
and powerful writing nobody will find anything –
unless considerably unstable – enjoyable in the
actual subject matter itself; warts and all is a
phrase that definitely applies here.
Being a male prostitute, the agony of withdrawal
symptoms when he retreats down south to try and
‘kick the habit’ by going cold turkey, overdosing –
the reader is given the whole gambit of the addict’s
There are also several inferences that can be made
about other elements of Sri Lankan life; this is not
a novel that restricts its content purely to that of
drug use in general.
Some have criticised the novel for being very
Westernised due to the use of allusion to Western
popular music lyrics and popular culture and names
used of many characters. This criticism did strike a
chord with me whilst reading it though I feel this
is simply a reflection of the so called ‘global
village’ that Sri Lanka is every bit a part of as we
head into the 21st Century –many young Sri Lankans
today have a far more Westernised or global view and
attitude than their parents (regardless of whether
you happen to think this is necessarily a positive
thing for the island or not).
I would also add that the man clearly has good
taste in music as well as a keen eye for meaningful
lyrics (obviously a totally personal view – and one
of a Westerner) though you don’t have to be in your
20s or 30s or have Nirvana’s back catalogue of
albums to appreciate this book.
Another criticism a friend of mine pointed out (a
Sri Lankan-born and bred) is that he thought for a
novel of its size some issues were not given enough
attention and that perhaps Wilde would have been
better off simply sticking to key points in detail.
Obviously, as a Westerner, it’s hard for me to see
such a criticism as it’s impossible for me to
suddenly see the world, or rather the book, through
a pair of Sri Lankan eyes, though this didn’t appear
to be a problem to me but then as a Brit it
wouldn’t. Could Mark Wilde intentionally be trying
to hawk this novel to a wider audience than his own
native one? And if so, does it really matter in the
grand scheme of things (once again I feel an
argument over the pros and cons of globalisation on
the horizon) though the fact that this novel can
appeal to a foreigner too does not necessarily
detract from its value? Let’s face it, a great many
classics of literature appeal to a vast number of
different and disparate cultures; the Russian novel
Crime And Punishment has no lack of admirers in the
US, Germany or England for example.
The style of Chucking The Dragon is very in your
face and pulls no punches (and doesn’t rely on
clichés like the two I’ve just used either), the
narrative being in the vernacular, somewhat staccato
in style, and the attitude of the protagonist is
typically one of youthful arrogance with a sinister
element of the self destructive element most would
associate with a problem such as becoming dependent
on an illegal drug.
This obviously means the use of the occasional swear
word for reasons of realism though at no point did I
get the impression that this was in any way
gratuitous or a cynical way of creating shock value.
It is certainly very different from what people
associate with the island’s English language
literary heritage – well respected and of undeniable
high quality this may well be.
Of course, there will be those who do not like
the book and those who simply ‘disapprove’ (even in
the West where, as I’ve mentioned earlier, such
books are nothing new, I know those who would have
this reaction) though I believe it does any art-form
good to be shaken up once in a while for that is how
new ideas and new directions are forged.
Personally I enjoyed the book a great deal and
certainly think that despite not being for the faint
hearted, the positive response that it has quite
obviously garnered from many quarters, is on the
whole very well deserved.
Performing Arts School
By Shabna Cader
“Growing up there was never a proper performing arts
school that I could attend,” stated Andre David, who
like many others in Sri Lanka has found it difficult
to pursue his stream of interest completely.
Like Andre, so many locals miss out on an
opportunity to truly pursue their dreams, to attend
a performing arts school and graduate from art
stream they truly love and belong. On the other
hand, the reality is that locals can go to separate
schools (sometimes have to go overseas) for separate
art streams and graduated separately, wasting away
many years altogether.
“There is never a problem with other streams and
fields of interest or choice of career; there are so
many institutions mushrooming around for everything
else but for someone who needs training in
performing arts, which is why I’ve decided to open a
school,” added Andre.
The DAPA (David Academy of Performing Arts) hopes to
begin its courses in singing and musical theatre in
the month of September. Other fields of art will be
added to the school as the semester moves forward.
Andre’s main goal, having opened this school, is to
someday be able to be affiliated with all other
performing arts schools abroad like Julliard.
Those who wish to apply are to contact Andre and
must have basic academic qualifications. There will
soon be courses that would include dancing
(classical jazz, ballet, Latin American etc) and
“I’d be teaching the first couple of singing and
musical theatre classes but for the rest of the
subjects that we hope to add to the curriculum will
be left to teachers of those fields – whom I intend
of bringing on board soon”.
There will be three centres of the school – Moratuwa,
Rajagiriya and Kohuwela. Auditions will be held soon
and those who wish to apply to attend must be within
the age limits of eight to 27 years.
“Unlike other schools those who apply and
auditions must be those who have a high level of
keen interest and raw talent to be a part. More
people dance than act but I know for a fact that the
scope is greater for acting than dancing but we’ll
see how things move forward once the school begins”
There will be three classes for each field – first
class for those between the ages of 8-12, second
class for those between the ages of 13-16 and lastly
for those between 18-27.
Classes will be held once a week for an hour for
four months initially. “depending on how things go,
I’d like to stage plays/shows at the end of every
sixth month or perhaps even ideally have 3 musicals
per year; it’s a lot to hope for but we’ll see!,”
If this sounds like something you’ve always wanted
to be a part of don’t hesitate to contact Andre on
071 688 1121 for further information on how you can
apply and audition to be a part of David Academy of
About Andre David
- Vocal teacher, choreographer and director.
- Runs the junior section of the Mary Anne School of
Vocal Music, deputy director of the school and
deputy conductor of the performing group and choir
“The Merry An Singers”. Choreographs and trains solo
voices on a one-on-one basis for performances,
competitions and examinations. (For information on
the school, see Annexure)
- A singer, actor and dancer and has won praise
for his performances as well as his productions from
both Sri Lankan and foreign critics. He has won
several awards for outstanding performances by
himself and his students, including most outstanding
performer (adult) of the Year at the Sri Lanka
Federation Festivals for two years running in the
Humorous and Musical Theatre Categories (2007,
2008). He was also given awards for being the
teacher whose students won the highest number of
gold medals and island-wide winner awards.
- Repertoire spans several genres, including
Classical and Operatic, Sacred, Gospel, Pop, Jazz
Standards, Broadway and Musical Theatre but his
focus has been on Broadway and Musical Theatre, Old
time jazz, swing time, rock ‘n’ roll etc.
Trained extensively with Mary Anne David in vocal
technique and teaching methods, Shannon Raymond in
tap dance and street Jazz, Mrs Nilani Vas and Mrs
Ramya De Livera in piano and Mr Andrew David and in
drama and theatre direction. He also performed with
the Workshop Players for a short spell.
- Trained in Sivananda Yoga and relaxation
techniques for singers and performers.
- Trained in Martial Arts techniques (particularly
Wu Shu) and Physical Training techniques by Mr Liel
Fernando and Mr Nalin Perera of the Sri Lanka Wu Shu
Other techniques learned include, Kick Boxing,
Aikido and Shotokan Karate.
These techniques come in useful when teaching
fitness for singers and performers.
an innate skill and passion for trainer Darshan
Dancing is a vibrant form of art which one has to
practice with patience and grace but today the
subject has evolved so much that dancing is not just
an elegant form of aesthetic movement but it is a
sport pursued with strenuous exercises and
application of stamina.
The idea of dancesport might be foreign to many but
to Darshan Wijesooriya it is an innate skill and
passion which has been cultivated over the years.
Being one of the most famous and foremost
personalities in the arena Darshan Wijesooriya has
established himself as a dance trainer and
dancesport promoter in Sri Lanka. Starting his
journey from the International Dance Studio (IDS)
after training and enhancing his skills in Ballroom
dancing and Latin American dancing, Darshan
Wijesooriya has formed a dance school called the
“The Dance Academy” together with iconic
accomplished dancers Toni Fernandez and Cyraine
After completing his professional exams Darshan
has taken up teaching dance in his dance academy and
he has passed on his skills and ardor for dance to
over five thousand students so far. As a dance
instructor Darshan insists on teaching the proper
techniques to students without brushing up the
movements. “In dancing every step is dissected into
sub parts and each movement is precise and
predefined, but with social dancing one cannot teach
all these, those who learn dancing to compete will
learn these proper techniques and without these
techniques the dance is not complete and defined”
Being a dance instructor for over 21 years,
Darshan is a licentiate of the International Dance
Teachers Association, the United Kingdom Alliance
and he is also an associate member of the National
Association of Teachers of Dancing UK. Making his
mark in the international arena Darshan has
represented Sri Lanka in many international
dancesport championships as an Adjudicator.
Obtaining the privilege of working in a panel
alongside some of the most renowned world class
dancers, Darshan is the first Sri Lankan dance
instructor to be granted the honour of representing
Sri Lanka in international dancesport championships.
Recognising the need to promote dancesport in Sri
Lanka Darshan has pioneered in spreading the concept
of dancesport through organising dancesport
championships in Sri Lanka.
This year he will be organising the fourth
International Dancesport Championship in October.
Strengthening his ties with governing bodies of
dancesport, Darshan has joined the Asia Dance
Council and he is also an executive member of the
council which is affiliated to the World Dance
Council. Through these ties he will be bringing down
qualified foreign judges for the dancesport
competition and foreign couples will also be
competing with the local dance couple at this
championship. To date he has organised a total of 12
local championships and 3 international
championships. “Organising these championships is
not difficult when you have contacts with renowned
dancers and governing bodies which I have cultivated
over the years but the main barrier is the cost
factor because choosing suitable dance floors and
getting foreign dancers to perform is very costly”,
However, with all these challenges Darshan has
been instrumental in bringing down World Latin
American Champions to perform in Sri Lanka providing
the local audience with a golden opportunity of
witnessing the aspiring performances of world class
dancers right here in Sri Lanka. With much gusto and
enthusiasm Darshan is looking forward to hold the
fourth International Dancesport Championship this
year as the local audience will get to enjoy the
best of style, elegance and energy in one dance
|Books speak volumes about
Lankan history and culture
copies of the two volumes of the books on the Dalada
Maligawa – The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic –
written by Late Professor Anuradha Seneviratna, were
presented to President Mahinda Rajapaksa recently by
Mr. Vijitha Yapa, Chairman of Vijitha Yapa
The President praised Vijitha Yapa Publications for
printing the illustrated editions of Professor
Anuradha Seneviratna’s works, not only of the Dalada
Maligawa but also of the The Kandy Esala Perahara,
Dambulla and Gateway to Kandy, with beautiful colour
This will be of tremendous use to not only to Sri
Lankans but also to foreigners to understand and
appreciate our history and culture, he said.
He said he would present copies to visiting state
dignitaries and also take copies of the books with
him overseas on his official visits.
Professor Anuradha Seneviratna’s two sons, Udayana
and Sindhu were also present at the event as well as
directors, Lalana Yapa and Peshan Yapa and the
editor of the publication, Siri Almeida.
Copies were also offered to the Sacred Tooth Relic,
and presented to the Mahanayake of Asgiriya Chapter
and the Anunayaka of the Malwatte Chapter, and to
the Diyawadana Nilame, just prior to the
commencement of the Perahera.
The Sacred Tooth Relic has played a major role in
the political, social and religious life in the
past, and it will continue to play the same vital
role in the days ahead. Therefore, these books are
an important contribution to the knowledge of
scholars of architecture, history, religion and the
culture of Sri Lanka.
Prof Anuradha Seneviratna, a meticulous researcher,
read through the galley proofs just prior to his
death last year.
Volume 1 deals with the history and architecture
of the temples which housed the Sacred Tooth Relic
in various parts of the island, beginning with
Anuradhapura where it was initially housed after
Princess Hemamala and Prince Danta brought it from
the Kalinga country in India in the 4th century AD
during the reign of Kirti Sri Meghavanna. Since then
the Sacred Tooth Relic was moved to several places,
depending on the security situation in times of war,
till the Sacred Tooth Relic was brought finally to
Senkadagalapura (now Kandy) in the 16th century
during the reign of Vimaladharmasuriya I and housed
in the Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy. All these
places where the Sacred Tooth Relic was housed, have
been described in detail with photographs and
illustrations to complement the text.
Volume 2 deals with Rituals, Customs and
Ceremonies associated with the Sacred Tooth Relic
and the Temple from historical times, which still
continue to be performed to this day.
These rites, the legacy of more than 2,000 years of
Buddhist worship, provide an unbroken lineage
between the past and the present, and their
continuation ensures a heritage for the future.
Daily rites, weekly rites, monthly rites and
yearly rites are dealt with in detail. Associated
with the yearly rites is the Äsala Perahära, and
this is described in full, with colour photographs
to support the text.
Professor Anuradha Seneviratna, who graduated from
Peradeniya University in 1965, obtained his Doctor
of Philosophy degree in 1968 from the University of
Halle in Germany.
He joined the academic staff of the Colombo
University in the same year as a Lecturer in Sinhala.
He joined the Peradeniya University in 1973 as
Senior Lecturer in Sinhala and served in that
capacity until 1984. During this period, he also
served as the director of the Institute of Aesthetic
Studies in Colombo.
He won the Fulbright Research Fellowship in 1977 and
served as a Research Associate in the University of
Indiana, and later in the University of California.
He was promoted as Associate Professor in the
Department of Sinhala in 1984, and served in that
position till 1991.
In 1988, he won the Commonwealth Academic Staff
Fellowship and was elected to a Visiting fellowship
at the Institute of Social Anthropology in the
Oxford University. In 1991, he was promoted a full
Professor and in 1996 as a Senior Professor in which
capacity he served till his retirement from this
University in February 2004.
He was appointed Senior Fellow of the University of
London in 1998 and was the Visiting Professor of
Sinhala, Pali and Buddhism for two years.
He was awarded the Emeritus Professor status by
the University Council on his retirement.
According to a recent bibliography prepared by the
Peradeniya University, he has written nearly seventy
books in Sinhala and English, research articles and
He was conferred the highest National Award
‘Kalakirti’ by the Government of Sri Lanka in 1991
and the honorary title ‘Dharma Sastra Visarada Kirti
Sri’ in the same year by the Malwatte Maha Vihara in
Kandy in recognition of his services to Arts,
Literature, Education and Culture.
He also won the State Literary Award thrice for
his published books in English.
He was also the president of the Arts Council of Sri
The Central Provincial Council, at a public
reception held in Kandy in 2007, honoured him for
his services rendered to the country over the last
Similarly, the Kandy Municipal Council unanimously
named a municipal road at Katugastota after him
calling it ‘Professor Anuradha Seneviratna Mawatha’
in recognition of his services.