Floating Hope

World’s largest floating book fair Logos Hope in Colombo

By Shabna Cader
Of all book fairs that have been held in Sri Lanka, nothing would amount to the experience of going to one atop a ship. Logos Hope is the world’s largest floating book fair, replacing the previous ship Logos II. This is a much larger ship, designed to give its visitors from around the world a truly memorable and one of a kind experience.
Operated by GBA Ships e.V., an international, charitable organization registered in Germany, the Logos Ship consists an all-volunteer crew and staff of about 400 members that represent over 50 different nations; bringing together people of various backgrounds, cultures and religion under one roof. In almost 40 years of service, the organisation has welcomed 40 million visitors up the gangways in over 160 countries and ports around the world. Currently, the vessel is at stop at the Bandaranaike Quay, Port of Colombo until April 3. It will leave the dock to sail to India and return to Galle on June 30 and continue the exhibition till July 18.

Aboard Logos Hope
On board visitors are offered a vast selection of titles for those of all ages, across a wide range of categories – science, sports, hobbies, cookery, the arts, economics, medicine, dictionaries, languages and philosophy. Locals might be used to the idea of having a great deal of space having visited the BMICH Book Fair on an annual basis but be forewarned that this is atop a ship and relatively a smaller book fair in size. However, the content is different and a great deal interesting to breeze through the selection aboard.
The content includes books that are often donated by publishers that have been removed from circulation in first-world countries after new editions have been released. This allows Logos Hope to offer books at a fraction of their original cost to people in all visiting countries. For each port visit, every effort is made to ensure that local language materials are available. As of now, there are a selection of books in Sinhalese and Tamil available aboard the ship. Apart from book sales, Logos Hope also extends literary aid to people in some of the developing countries it visits. In the course of their service textbooks and reference volumes to individuals, schools, libraries, community groups, colleges and universities have been donated over the years.
Visitors, both young and old are made to sit on planks, shaped like a boat where a screen plays a two-minute video about the Logos Hope book fair. First-timers will be guided by the multi-ethnic crew members and will be able to access the books at ease; an information desk is located at one end of the deck if help is needed. The deck is fully air conditioned and also includes a café allowing visitors to grab a snack, ice cream or drink after the grand experience.

History of the ship
Logos Hope was constructed in the year 1973 and initially named Gustav Vasa. It was originally built as a passenger car ferry and sailed along the North Atlantic routes. In the year 1983, the ship changed hands to the Smyril Line, renamed Norröna, and sailed between the Faroe Islands and Denmark until the year 2004. In this year GBA Ships e.V. (previously Good Books for All) had raised sufficient funds to acquire the vessel and she underwent extensive renovations for her new role as the floating book fair. The word Logos is Greek, traditionally meaning ‘word, thought, principle or speech’. In the year 2005 the ship was renamed Logos Hope and sailed to Trogir, Croatia, where she underwent extensive renovations to upgrade onboard accommodation and install a larger book deck than the previous Logos II. Logos Hope finally sailed into active service in February 2009.
Events aboard and on shore, include seminars and conferences on topics as diverse as marriage, AIDS awareness or primary health care, provide new impetus for change. The communities aboard the ship are also responsible and undertake a series of aid and relief projects under ‘knowledge’, ‘help’ and ‘hope’.

Master of the ship

Captain Dirk Colenbrander, from the Netherlands, took on the role of Logos Hope Master in March 2007. Prior to serving as Captain, Dirk served as chief mate and then as master for two years aboard the Logos II. Before joining the organisation, Dirk worked for a decade on commercial ships, gaining experience and qualifications both as a chief engineer and as a master. As Logos Hope Master, Dirk is responsible for the proper management, safety and security of the vessel, for her crew and passengers, and for the fulfilment of international maritime law. Serving on board is the fulfilment of a lifelong ambition for Dirk. After hearing about the company as a little boy, he promised to one day serve as officer on one of the GBA ships. Two years later, Dirk visited the organisation’s first ship Logos and today he serves as master of Logos Hope.
Opening hours are 10am to 6:30 pm Tuesday through Friday and 2pm to 6:30 pm on Sunday and Monday. Tickets are priced at Rs.70, and children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.


Sandun de Silva

I’m tough and hard to work with!

By Shabna Cader
His photography has made headlines and his name rings a bell in everyone’s ears; Sandun de Silva is no stranger to anyone in the Asian continent. Surprisingly, although photography wasn’t what he pursued from childhood, it was rather something he happened to catch onto in the beginning. Instead, it was the art of cooking that captured his heart from his early childhood to his early 20s.

“I started cooking when I was about seven years of age and gradually something that I was quite good at. Unfortunately for me however I belonged to a family of doctors and I think that, that was what was expected of me as well. Overall I hated studying and the sort of profession that was monotonous. If something required me to stay in one place for too long, I would be bored mindless. However, I left to Australia where I studied software engineering. Not my cup of tea! So when I came back I told my parents that I wanted to become a chef and they replied in shock – you want to become a cook? – and I said no, I want to become a chef” he added with a chuckle.

Lucky for him, his parents didn’t object and Sandun left to London to pursue his dreams of becoming a Cordon Bleu Chef. A few years down the drain, and on his arrival back to Sri Lanka, he realised that he didn’t want his life to go down this career path either. In his own brilliant words, he realised that when a chef has to work long hours in once place, cooking up the same dishes which was a ‘no no’ for him. “I didn’t know what else to do at the time and wanted to take some time off for myself. It was around that time when I was offered the job as co-editor of Asian Times”, and it was during one of the plenty assignments that he picked up a camera for the first time; which was only five years ago.

It’s definitely been a tremendous journey since then from his first stint as photographer of the HSBC Colombo Fashion Week and multiple other international publications and shoots. Sandun’s art and way of grasping photography was paving its way into a successful and blossoming career. One might wonder why his masterpieces are never or hardly ever seen on local publications but the man behind the lens has his reasons: “I prefer work out of the country”. Simply put, exposure is wider and the scope is far greater. Plus, the fact that he is self-taught and not textbook ridden or limited, gives his photographic talents an edge and unique touch.
“I take pictures of what I like and I believe that you need to have a style of your own. Style also happens to come very easy when you haven’t studied the art literally. I happen to find inspiration in day-to-day life, movies, music and also much travelling. Even as a child I’ve travelled to many places. It’s good to see different sights, great locations and beautiful scenery and that has influenced the photo shoots as most of them are located/based outdoors,” said Sandun.

He also stressed on the fact that he believes many locals have great talent and need to understand what exactly they want to depict in their pictures. In line with fashion photography that is fast catching on in Sri Lanka, Sandun confessed that even though many photographers seem to think it’s all about the model in front of the camera and her expressions and poses; but it’s not just that – fashion photography is an entirely different world of fashion, clothing, attire and accessories. That is why he says that the exposure and scope abroad is wider and greater.
For a man like him who runs his own show, Sandun leads quite a busy life. If he isn’t at a shoot, he’s be scheduling for another, travelling to his heart’s content or spending time with his three-year-old rock star niece who he admits is the most important thing in his life. He further admitted that even though he hardly has time for himself, he can get extremely cranky when he has nothing on his hands. Although quite the workaholic, he is the happiest at work; “I work hard and play hard,” he laughed.

So what is like to work with one of Asia’s top photographers? “I’m tough and hard to work with. Photography can be stressful but at the end of the day I’m only doing my job. I’m almost always the first on the set and the last to leave but how things go really depend on team effort. It’s important to have a great relationship with everyone on the set and that includes the model, stylist, etc., and make sure that they all deliver 110%. It’s all about preparation even though nothing goes according to plan! But photography is never boring and is definitely a part of who I am,” he said.


Nutcracker – A narration of beauty, courage and hope

By Randima Attygalle
‘Re-discovering the human body in its courage and beauty,’ is being justified once more by Jehan Aloysius, founder CentreStage Productions, who will be staging an innovative adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s much-celebrated family ballet, Nutcrakcer on April 1, 3 and 4, at the Lionel Wendt Theatre.
Yet another ambitious theatrical venture of the StageHands – the humanitarian arm of the CentreStage Productions, Nutcracker is promised to be a ‘shift in talents’ of an inspiring cast, comprising soldiers from Ranaviru Sevana, hearing-impaired participants from Sunera Foundation together with performers and trainers from Jehan’s StageHands team.

Marking the theatre troupe’s 10th anniversary this year, the production of Nutcracker is partnered by ‘One Trust Sri Lanka’ – the humanitarian arm of Cargills PLC.
‘Body narrative,’ a genre of physical expression apparent in the performance, it strives to evolve a distinct form of movement and dance from the identification of the physically-challenged performers’ element. As Jehan cites, “We want to project wheelchairs and crutches not as tools evoking pity but positive and creative signifiers capable of creating lyrical beauty and strength, in tune with our theme discovering courage and beauty through human body.”

A fine blend of the amateur and the seasoned performer, Nutcracker comes alive with a ‘tight cast’ as Jehan defines, of 12 performers, playing multiple roles. “This is quite a leap from our previous productions such as An Inspired Swan Lake, in which we worked with nearly 20 performers,” says Jehan whose theatrical flair has conceived a novel interpretation for Nutcracker, transforming the characters from Tchaikovsky’s original, yet doing justice to the traditional plot.

“I captured the most powerful conflict in the original plot which is the tension between the ‘King of Rats’ and the Nutcracker doll and his toy soldiers. My new interpretation extends this tension into the second act which is a traditional palace court ballet and places the battle as the penultimate scene of the play,” he adds.
Adding a more contemporary flavour to the altered sequence of the production is a fusion of ballet, hip-hop and Kandyan tradition-inspired tribal dance segments – ensured to entice a young and an adult audience alike.
As Jehan points out, Nutcracker is indeed a mutually challenging labour; harnessing diverse talents and fine-tuning to project intricacies of theatre on his part and shedding inhibitions and coming to a forum of ‘equality’ on the part of the physically-challenged. “The soldiers from Ranaviru Sevana and hearing-impaired from Sunera Foundation coming to a common platform with the troupe of CentreStage is a reflection of equality incorporated into the production as it’s all about overcoming challenges,” elaborates Jehan.

Thusitha Wimalasooriya who sacrificed his limbs in the battlefront of Kilinochchi is a fine personification of courage, whose lithe movement as the Nutcracker makes an onlooker filled with awe. Sharing his experience with The Nation, Thusitha said, “Nutcracker is my second stage effort with Jehan. Appearing in Swan Lake gave me hope, to make myself productive through art and I’m thankful for Jehan for this wonderful opportunity.” Justifying his words are Madushanka Seneviratne (playing Toy Robot) and H. M. Padmasiri (Toy Viking), both from Ranaviru Sevana. Their smiling faces and vigour in movement hold testimony to their creative journey of hope and courage, true to Jehan’s words, “We want them to be role models.”
Tickets for Nutcracker are now available at the Lionel Wendt Theatre. For further inquiries on tickets, call 2695794.

(Pix by Ravindra Dharmathilake)