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4th June,  2006  Volume 12, Issue 47

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    

Arts

Quest: Images of our reality

Lasting peace can only come to peaceful people"— Jawaharlal Nehru. "Peace does not happen, it requires work." — Hubert Humphrey.

The word ‘peace’ conjures up different meanings. For most of us, it is an abstract ideal, an intangible, elusive dream that though we hope will materialise, we are also sceptical of and fear that we will never experience.

It is also something we think can only be brought about by governments and politicians, by warring factions through a resolution of conflict. As we sit back and wait for that utopia, how many of us individuals, think of peace as our struggle too, that we have to forge, to create, to work towards; every day?

These are some of the questions that are provoked in Anoma Wijewardene’s latest exhibition, a powerful — what she terms — "emotional response" to inner and outer peace. This exhibition is a sensitive endeavour that she has worked on for the last three years, to represent, through her eyes, what we have experienced as a nation.

Harrowing though this reality is, what is noteworthy is that it is not devoid of hope, for we are offered a myriad of possibilities within the nuances of her rich tapestry of words and images to seek within ourselves the meaning of lasting peace — ways to transcend the rigid boundaries of ethnicity, religion and language, that bind us and imprison our minds and bodies and preclude us from attaining that reality.

Anoma Wijewardene is one of Sri Lanka’s most prominent artists. A graduate of Central St. Martin’s College of Art, London, she has exhibited her work all over the world. She has had solo exhibitions in Australia, India, Malaysia and the UK. She has also been a visiting lecturer in art in the UK for over 10 years. In all of her work she strives to capture the "higher meaning and purpose in life" — Senaka Abeyratne.

Her previous exhibitions have all been described as windows to our inner selves. This vast and in depth experience led her to undertake the courageous responsibility of encapsulating through digital art and video installation, images of the environs of our daily lives, those which we see and we pass by, often because we feel that we don’t have the time to stop and reflect upon them, perhaps to avoid that uneasy experience that these images may compel us to appraise our own accountability in the society we have created.

This exhibition is innovative in both theme and form. In a sensitive and sophisticated way, it reflects the vicissitudes of contemporary Sri Lanka. The use of digital art and video installation demonstrate how conventional media is revolutionised.

Digital art is an established genre where, with the use of computer technology, primary source material is modified, so that the original photograph can be transformed, blended with other material to convey not only a multiplicity, but entirely new, meanings. All the original photographs are Anoma’s — taken since 2003 when she visited Jaffna soon after the ceasefire was signed.

There are also many images of Colombo and the post tsunami devastation. In the majority of cases, she has not added any content to the original, but as she notes: "(she has) layered, fused, blurred, sharpened colour and added depth" to impel the viewer to contend with other possibilities beyond the reality of the picture presented.

The multi-screen video installation supports and enhances the digital art because it enables the possibility of presenting material in a multi-dimensional way. Different elements, evoking the auditory and visual senses simultaneously, are mingled, and this offers the viewer an experience of art that we have rarely encountered.

At a thematic level, Quest also testifies to the multi-faceted nature of our society. This motif of many layers is extremely germane to the present socio-political landscape, because in scenarios of ethnic conflict, historically mixed and hybrid communities and identities are often reinvented in terms of ethnic purity, as conflicting groups lay exclusive claims to previously multicultural territories, memories, histories and heritage.

As a nation, Sri Lanka is not an entity in which ethnic, religious, cultural identities can be neatly compartmentalised as monolithic categories, but is a hybrid island in all its diverse and vibrant forms. In this exhibition, through the narrative of the art works, interspersed with quotes from a range of thinkers, scholars, visionaries, Anoma Wijewardene reinforces the hybridity of our lives — at the cultural, racial, linguistic and religious levels. It brings to the centre stage the plight of the vulnerable and the dispossessed, those we forget are also a part of this diversity.

Women, children, victims of political and social violence, victims of the tsunami comprise this narrative. Their suffering, presented through many layers and forms, keeps reminding us that our reality is a comingling of a varied array of communities, and the pursuit of peace, therefore, must include their rights and voice.

This visual and auditory quest strives not only to open a debate on these issues, but by evoking an intellectual and emotional response from the viewer it reveals the intensity of human suffering and the desperate need for peace. It is an appeal to transform and reconcile ourselves and our society. It also reminds us that we cannot be passive, that each of us is responsible for the fate of our nation.

As Gananath Obeyesekere states: "It is necessary for poets, painters, dreamers, scholars, religious re-thinkers and visionaries to raise their collective voices and jolt the public conscience, showing us the futility of the terrifying discriminations we have invented and hopefully persuading us to resurrect the gentleness — our feminine nature, one might even say — that many of us have suppressed. Then perhaps we can go to sleep."

— Neluka Silva


International artist to stage exhibition for Sri Lankan youth

Acclaimed American artist Dray has announced an
upcoming exhibition of his works to be held in support of young Sri Lankans. The exhibition is organised by the Sunera Foundation, a government-approved charity that has been working since 1997 to restore hope and dignity to differently abled young people in Sri Lanka. It will open in the upstair gallery at the Bay Leaf Restaurant on June 6, and will run until June 20. All proceeds from pieces sold will go to support the continuing work of Sunera Foundation.

Dray is a noted American artist specialising in abstract and expressionist works. Currently his art can be found in the collections of celebrities such as Alanis Morisette, Ice T and music impresario Quincy Jones.

The exhibition is a collection of vibrant and challenging works that have been over a year in the making. Following the 2004 tsunami disaster, Dray felt compelled to reach out to the Sri Lankan people through his art. This exhibition is the culmination of that dedication.

"Working with children has definitely been the highlight of my career," Dray said, "So, after seeing the devastation from the tsunami and the children affected by the civil war in Sri Lanka, I was compelled to help in the only way I knew how.  Through my art."

The exhibition has been put together with the help of dedicated sponsors the Bay Leaf Restaurant and Triad Aid. Entry to the exhibition is free.

SUNERA Foundation is a government approved charity that focuses on working alongside the differently abled people of Sri Lanka. In a society that too often stigmatises those who are different, the foundation aims to bring self-confidence to marginalised people and enable them to find their inner strength. It also seeks to help Sri Lankans dismantle their prejudices against the differently abled, by showcasing the strength of their skills and their spirits.

They provide psychosocial support to differently-abled people across Sri Lanka. Focusing on the use of the performing arts as a therapeutic tool, they conduct weekly workshops that are designed to help their participants find new ways of expressing themselves and to uncover their hidden creative talents.

Through their public performances, Sunera encourages the Sri Lankan public to witness the astounding feats that their workshop participants are capable of — proving that they are not disabled, merely differently abled.

History of Sunera

Sunera Foundation first started functioning in April 1997, following a series of collaborations between the Sunethra Bandaranaike Trust and differently-abled artists. This culminated in the 1998 grand-scale performance of Butterflies Will Always Fly.

The first major performance since its formation, Flowers Will Always Bloom, went on to be performed in London and Brisbane in 2001 and Delhi in 2003. Since then, Sunera has moved onto three other major successful productions: Swinging Times (2001). Journey Into The Subconscious (2002) and Turtles Will Never Fly. In addition, Sunera now supports three individual theatre companies: Sunera Foundation Trainers, Butterflies Theatre Company and Butterflies Theatre Company — Second Wing.

Workshops

Since they first began, their programmes has expanded greatly and now reaches right across the island. Sunera features more than 30 regular weekly workshops across 10 districts and touches the lives of over 750 differently abled Sri Lankans each week.

As well as their regular workshops, Sunera has expanded its programme to include those traumatised by the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. Focussing on six of the worst affected areas: Jaffna, Hambantota, Galle, Trincomalee, Matara and Ampara, Sunera’s Tsunami Theatre Outreach Project seeks to provide psychosocial support and personal development to those most in need.


Fete de la Musique ’06 international music day

ONCE again Fete de La Musique organised by the Alliance Francaise de Colombo will come alive at the modernised air-conditioned New Town Hall, Greenpath , Colombo 7 on Wednesday, June 21, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

This unique musical event began in France in 1982 and now this music festival is celebrated all over the world. Every year professional and amateur musicians in France take to the streets and parks on this day to celebrate the arrival of summer after a dismal spring. It is free of charge and thousands and thousands of people flock to these parks and streets and performers embrace all kinds of music and nothing is out of place and it goes on the whole day.

Here in Sri Lanka, here is your chance to expose your hidden talents. It is for everyone — amateurs, professionals (no age limit), individuals, bands, dancing schools / groups, ballet schools / groups, school bands etc.

If you can sing (in any language), play any musical instrument or dance, this is the day for you. Pop, jazz, classical, rock, baila or anything goes….The organisers also will give a chance to the up-and coming comperes to show their talents as well.

The organisers will provide, sound systems and background music by Zodiac free of charge or you could have your own music or group.

Please contact the Alliance Francaise de Colombo at 11, Barnes Place, Colombo 7 to obtain application forms.

And all are welcome to come for an evening of music and fun free of charge.


Humour

‘How to tell the difference?’

Hello,

Chee Chee Corea welcomed the change in the weather. The first thing he did was to pop into Mrs. Crutchly's house and borrow her brolly. Make no mistake it will not be returned till the monsoons are over. Imagine Chee Chee walking along Kottangchena Street under the umbrella, stopping at Dharbar for a tea and a ciggie and then worm his way to Tella’s place for small talk.

By the way Tella is also a Colombo chetty....an Anandappa to be exact. More of him later. They were analysing and typecasting the ethnic mix of Kottangchena. Below is Chee Chee's description,

"In Kottangchena, how do you tell the difference?" asked Tella.

"Easy baby, I can," said Chee Chee, "Listen" —

You are Sinhalese?

You don't think very far,

You love kavun,

You squeal on your friends for promotions,

You get very thirsty everyday after work,

There's no such thing as a free lunch for you,

You have a great temper,

You don't shave your armpits,

You love to swear using other peoples mums interlinked with intercourse.

You are Tamil?

You don't go for movies, but you'd rather see it on the showroom window TV

You buy two murungas and think you are eating well,

You have hair on your ears,

You love to do things secretly,

You always answer a question with another question,

Your women wear rings on their noses, and jasmines in their hair

You must live in a hostel at Wellawatte.

You are Moor?

Your waistline is equal to or more than your hips,

You must have a relative named Marikar,

Even though you are married only once you still have three more on your mind,

You love to eat in groups of six,

You believe, sincerely, that the difference between selling price and cost price must always be more than three times the cost price,

Your neighbours wife is always attractive,

Your in-laws are not your best friends,

You are a firm believer that there is more than one way to skin a cat.

You are Burgher?

You look great on the outside but there's nothing really much inside you,

You live in a small cottage like house that's neat and tidily kept, red cement shiny floors and serve lime juice.

You like wine, women, song and some like boys too,

Your hair is greasy all the time,

Your pants stick to your body like a leech,

If you were allowed to take a guitar to school you would,

Your gals have great legs and never learned to say NO.

You are Chetty?

Money is the root of all happiness,

You have a knack to give away money and make more of it in the process,

You start your day with Gal,

You eat lunch with Gal,

You end your day with Gal,

You must live in Kotahena,

You never miss a novena,

Your family name must end with Pulle or Appa

You are Memon?

You are always spitting blood everywhere you go,

Your women are hairy,

You wear oversized baggy pantaloons that swing in the wind,

You must have a shop in the Pettah,

Your tummy is no different to the Moor fellows,

Trust doesn't come easy when it’s business,

You relish biriyani and sweets.

You are Sindhi?

You are a wizard at Rummy,

Your home isn't complete without the 'juice' cabinet,

Your women are also hairy,

You love numerology, astrology and Sai Baba,

You are a member of Otters,

Playing cards, fast cars, and biznez are the main ingredients of life,

Your name must end with an "ANI."

You are a Parsi?

Another hairy bunch,

You don't think very far like the Sinhalese,

You keep vultures for pets,

You can easily pass off as a Burgher,

Your name must end with a "JEE."

Tella couldn't fault the description.

Chee Chee was asked to describe the wives of his friends and foe. Here's what he said—

1) A man placed some flowers on the grave of his dearly departed mother and started back toward his car at Grandpass when his attention was diverted to another man kneeling at a grave. The man seemed to be praying with profound intensity and kept repeating, "Why did you have to die? Why did you have to die?"

The first man approached him and said, "Sir, I don't wish to interfere with your private grief, but this demonstration of pain is more than I've ever seen before. For whom do you mourn so deeply? A child? A parent?" The mourner took a moment to collect himself, then replied, "My wife's first husband."

2) A couple came upon a wishing well at Modera Street. The husband leaned over, made a wish and threw in a penny. The wife decided to make a wish, too. But she leaned over too much, fell into the well, and drowned. The husband was stunned for a while but then smiled "It really works!"

3) Ravi Irugal said his credit card was stolen but he decided not to report it because the thief was spending less than his wife did.

4) Lacho Rodrigo (proudly): "My wife's an angel!" Second Guy (name withheld for obvious reasons): "You're lucky, mine's still alive."

5) A couple (name withheld) was having a discussion about family finances. Finally the husband exploded, "If it weren't for my money, the house wouldn't be here!" The wife replied, "My dear, if it weren't for your money, I wouldn't be here."

6) "Tella,"said Chee Chee, "Before marriage, a man yearns for the woman he loves. After marriage, the "y" becomes silent.

7) Kennedy's little boy asked his father, "Daddy, how much does it cost to get married?" And the father replied, "I don't know, son, I'm still paying for it."

8) Kenny Dabrera inserted an ‘ad’ in the classifieds : ‘Wife wanted.’ Next day, he received a hundred letters. They all said the same thing: "You can have mine."

9) When Nathan the Emmanuel (teacher) opens the door of his car for his wife, you can be sure of one thing: either the car or the wife is new

10) Mulchiri, received a letter from some kidnappers. The letter said, "If you don't promise to send us Rs.1,000,000, we promise you we will kidnap your wife." Mulchiri wrote back, "I am afraid I can't keep my promise but I hope you kidnap my wife."

Ta Ra and see ya next week,

Rabbada Aiya


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