Anoma : Inner peace the way to sustain national peace
Visitors looking at ‘Through a Glass, darkly’
(inset) Anoma looking at ‘I hear those voices that
will not be drowned’
By Michael Hardy
Anoma Wijewardene’s new exhibition
Phoenix, now on display at the Colombo Art Biennale,
represents the artist’s personal response to the
Biennale’s theme of "Peace." Drawing upon digital
photographs she took during a trip to Jaffna in 2002
during the last cease-fire, Anoma has created a
multi-media gallery show that invites viewers to find
inner peace as the way to sustain national peace.
"I saw unbelievable devastation during
my trip to the north," Anoma said. "There was a lot of
pain, but also a lot of hope and happiness because
people thought the war was over."
Although she felt hopeful about the
future in 2002, by the time she exhibited art inspired
by the trip in 2006 at the National Art Gallery the
country was again at war. Now that the war is truly
over, Anoma felt it was time for another exhibition.
Like the 2006 show, in which Anoma exhibited her first
works of digital art, Phoenix presents some of
Anoma’s most experimental work to date, including her
first works of sculpture and interactive art.
On the floor by the entrance to the
gallery is spiral of stones in the shape of Sri Lanka,
each stone inscribed with a quote about peace from
people like Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. The quotes are
written in each of Sri Lanka’s three languages, and
visitors are invited to walk around the spiral to
meditate on peace in the Zen Buddhist manner. In another
corner of the gallery Anoma has built a reflecting pool
in the shape of Sri Lanka which reflects the words "Hear
the Cry of a Broken Pearl." When the water is disturbed,
the words vanish—a symbol of the country’s fragile
peace. One wall of the gallery is partially covered by
floor-to-ceiling mirrors. Inspired by Sigiriya,
Arundathi Roy, and Michael Jackson, the work asks
viewers to examine their own hearts. Then, they are
encouraged to write messages of peace in multi-colored
markers on the mirror.
"We are all responsible for this war,
and we are all responsible for maintaining a stable
peace," Anoma said. "Everyone is excited about the
peace, but do we have peace in our hearts? The guns are
now silent, but have we silenced the gun in our hearts?"
In yet another interactive artwork, the
viewer can walk between seven human-sized,
semi-transparent photographs suspended from the ceiling.
The photographs of refugees returning to their homes,
taken by Anoma during her 2002 trip to Jaffna, are meant
to prompt reflection about our relationship to the
victims of the war, as wells as the IDPs. Anoma believes
that only by thinking seriously about the last war can
we avoid another war.
"There’s a lot of denial out there, a
lot of avoidance—slipping things under the carpet," she
said. "Of course, when you slip things under the carpet
they come back. By not confronting issues you keep them
An actual confrontation is acted out in
Anoma’s video installation Phoenix, which plays
in a separate gallery at the Biennale. In the video,
five actors silently pantomime a narrative about
conflict and forgiveness over a soundtrack of brooding
electronic music. The actors are enveloped in washes of
kaleidoscopic colors, giving the video an ethereal,
dream-like feel. Still photographs taken from the video,
which possess an eerie beauty of their own, are on
display in the main gallery and represent some of the
most interesting work on display. Anoma chose the title
Phoenix—the mythical bird that burns up, and then
rises from the ashes to live again—to represent the
country’s emergence from decades of armed conflict.
"I wanted to focus on the idea of the
Phoenix," she said. We can rise out of the ashes.
It’s very easy to see ourselves as outside of this war.
‘It’s terrorism,’ ‘it’s the politicians,’ ‘it’s other
people,’ rather than, ‘it’s us.’ I mean, if the country
has been in conflict for 30 years we do need to look at
ourselves and ask ourselves what’s wrong with our daily
interactions. What about us being a Buddhist, so-called
In addition to the more experimental
pieces, the show features paintings reminiscent of her
earlier work—expertly-modeled human figures partly
masked by clouded glass. Most the exhibition, however,
is given over to Anoma’s curiosity about new media and
"I get bored very easily," she said. "I
have a low boredom threshold. So why would I bore myself
by repeating myself? My paintings are my adventure, so I
don’t need to leave my house to travel. But I need to be
travelling somewhere really exciting. And I never know
if I’ll get there—until very late last night I really
didn’t know if this show was going to work. I have never
done anything like this before, and I don’t know what
people will respond to."
Well Mudaliyar… How!
from the play
The Creative Arts Foundation staged
Well Mudaliyar...How, at the Bishop’s College
Auditorium recently directed by Jith Pieris. This
particular play which has been staged many times prior
to this was able to not merely bring in humour and
satire at its best but also demonstrate that the former
does not in fact change over time. Although the various
mannerisms and characteristics portrayed by the cast
maybe different to what theatergoers witnessed earlier
human behaviour does not change much with time.
As Pieris says " this play was written
in colonial times when the walauwas’ existed and
it satirises this particular way of life. The Notary
(played by Anuruddha Fernando) is as one would call in
today’s context ‘new rich’ whilst the Mudaliyar (Hans
Billimoria) has no money."
Notoris Ralahamy insists on
speaking in English which apart from having prestige is
the language used by the ruling classes of all
communities. However, he directly translates Sinhala
idioms into English often resulting in the use of the
most hilarious Singlish, and no doubt keeping the crowd
in fits of laughter…especially when he announces that he
is writing a ‘unanimous’ letter to the Mudaliyar.
The play was written when Ceylon was
going through one of its most interesting times in the
country’s history. The feudal system of the old kings of
Ceylon has been adopted by the British.
As the play unfolds it is evident that
the Mudaliyar becomes very dependent on the Notary – to
the extent that the latter with his crafty ways is able
to weave himself into every aspect of the former’s
family. Pieris adds that Well Mudaliyar...How’ is
a part of a series of plays which has stood the test of
time – well over seven decades. He believes that
comedies such as these capture a large section of
theatre goers enabling them to relax.
Whilst thanking Sita de Saram for giving
him permission to stage the production, Pieris adds that
the response they received from all who were involved in
the play was overwhelming. "Anuruddha lifted the play
and he was very good as were all the other members of
the cast. Hans was ably supported by his wife who was
played by Sashi Mendis who brought in a lot of
experience into the play." In fact, she acted in this
same role over a decade ago along with people such as
Arun Dias Bandaranaike.
Speaking about his role Hans says: "It
was interesting to work with Jith and the group and
despite being a ‘historic role’ it went off well. Sashi
says that she enjoyed playing her role which was very
typical of the era in which it was written and she had
to uphold the traditional values at that time such as
the walauwa system, a family, dowry etc.
Anuruddha meanwhile adds that he was
honoured to play the role he did and it was a lot of
fun. It was also the first time that he took part in one
of Pieris’ productions and he was therefore able to make
a lot of new friends. "I interpreted the role in my own
way and the humour was different to what it was in
Pusswedilla as it was in a sense more witty and
Another character who made the audience
roar with laughter practically from the very moment he
stepped on the stage was the suitor to the Mudaliayar’s
daughter Phylis played by Bandara ( Dhanu Innasithamby.)
He played the role of a rich planter who despite his
wealth has no class. The Mudaliyar tries to literally
‘palm off’ his daughter on him. He does not know that
the Notary’s son is in love with Phyllis.
Secretly, the Notary is overjoyed when
he finds this out but is also disturbed that the
suitor’s affair may go through and attempts to break it
up…whilst he also tries to encourage a match between
Freddy and his daughter.
Eventually the notary’s crafty schemes
work out …and alls well that ends well.
The other members in the cast included
Alwis (Liyanamahattaya) played by Pasan Ranaweera.
Brandon Ingram acts as Freddy or the Mudaliyar’s son
whilst Ashini Fernando plays the role of Phyllis who is
the Mudaliyar’s daughter. Sajith Amendra was Chandra
(the Notary’s son ) and Dila Weerasinghe was Emily, the
The sets and costumes were handled by
Mano Chanmugam and Kirthi Sri Karunaratne respectively.
What did the audience say?
" I saw the play many years ago with
some of the best known names in theatre taking
part…therefore to be honest I was to an extent
disappointed that the play did not live up to what I
expected. Overall, it was an extremely entertaining
evening full of witty sarcasm which I love. The Notary
in particular stood out from the rest of the cast." —
"I was in fits of laughter throughout
the play and it brought back the good old colonial
times. It was a lovely evening and the Notary and
Mudaliyar were very excellent. I feel that there should
be more plays of this nature that are also affordable to
a wider section of the population. " — Anomal de Soysa.
"I am not a critic on plays but I loved
it. The Notary was fantastic as was everything about the
play...the sets, costumes etc." — Goolbai Gunesekara.
"I liked the play immensely. The humour
was very good and the entire production was very well
handled." — A member of the audience.
exhibition at Musée de l’Etang de Thau
with his friends and visitors
I returned to Australia recently after a
memorable stay in Languedoc, a famous region of Southern
France known for its beautiful architecture and stunning
landscapes, not to mention its top-quality wines.
On August 9th Shanta Perera
and his wife Anna, who live in England and have a lovely
holiday home in Languedoc, and I visited the Musée de
l’Etang de Thau in Bouzigues – a suburb of Montpelier
fondly known as the oyster capital of France – to see
Seneka Abeyratne’s solo digital art exhibition, titled
Images Of Bouzigues Through The Eyes Of A Sri Lankan
I understand that several organisations
had helped him to hold this exhibition, including the
French Embassy, the French Foreign Ministry, SriLankan
Airlines, the Bouzigues Town Hall, and the Communauté de
Communes Nord du Bassin de Thau (CCNBT). Incidentally,
Seneka, Shanta and I were classmates at Royal College
and our reunion in Languedoc made this trip very
Seneka, who lives in a village in
Piliyandala and leads a somewhat other-worldly
existence, has a keen eye for colour and composition,
and I could see that he has been influenced by several
artists from the last two centuries, including Monet,
Van Gogh, Seraut, and Matisse. There are hints of
impressionism, post-impressionism, pointillism and
fauvism in his work. His paintings are very French and
the way he breathes new life into places and scenes by
using the photo as his canvas to add an unexpected new
dimension is pretty remarkable.
Seneka’s exhibition (August 3 to 28,)
introduced me to the wonders of digital art and I am
truly happy I made it to the South of France to see it.
I asked the artist, "How did you create those
impressionistic effects?" And he replied, "With a
Seneka has done Sri Lanka proud by
holding this exhibition in Languedoc, where at one time
famous artists like Van Gogh and Gaugin used to hang
out. Some of Van Gogh’s most celebrated paintings were
done in Arles, another historic city in Languedoc not
too far from Bouzigues.
— Mahinda Perera
Fremantle, Western Australia
Deepal writes on Nepal
presents his book to
Sri Lanka’s Nepal Ambasador
A copy of Deviyan Divaman Budun Upan
Rata (The Land Where Gods Live And Where Buddha Was
Born) the latest book by Deepal Sooriyaarachchi was
presented to Sri Lanka’s Nepal Ambassador, Durga P.
Bhattarai recently at the Embassy of Nepal. Mrs.
Sooriyaarachchi was also present.
Nepal is known among most Sri Lankans
because of Lumbini, the birth place of Gauthama Buddha.
This book attempts to introduce other places of interest
in this colorful country. The book is written as a
simple guide cum travel log. The book has 96 pages with
15 small chapters and 95 photos and it is a Sarasavi
The book covers important historical,
religious and cultural monuments in the Kathmandu
valley, an introduction to Hinduism, its practices and
examples of Hindu iconography. While most Sri Lankans
have visited Lumbini and Kapilawastu thru India, this
book covers the journey to those two places from
Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal.
The book also describes places of
tourist interest such as Phokra from where the
magnificent Fish Tail peak can be seen and Chitwan
National Park where rhinos and tigers can be found. A
detailed description of a trek to a remote village up in
the Himalayan foot hills introduces a novel experience
to the local reader.
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