A rainbow coalition of drama enthusiasts
By Thiruni Kelegama
The atmosphere was electric."I wanted to reach out to the children at the grass root level. I wanted them to come here to this workshop and develop their self-expression and learn more about the wonderful world of drama," says Somalatha Subasinghe, the resource person of this workshop, and whose brainchild this project was.

"I got together with the German Cultural Institute and the Cultural Ministry and of course with the help of my organization, the Lanka Children and Youth Aid Organization, I decided to finally implement my plan," she adds. "The plan was to get a number of children from all over Sri Lanka and have a drama workshop and help them develop dramatic skills and teach them how to express themselves."

The children all around, were in a world of their own. A world that consisted of drama and what more but drama?

This was a rainbow coalition of diverse people who had come together for the intoxicating cause of drama.

"I have always wanted to organize something, which would be of help to children. That is by way of recreational activities. I wanted to have some sort of school or class, where I could just get the students together, and teach them that there is much more besides the competition of daily life, she explained.

"However, what I really wanted was to get the children from all over Sri Lanka and do something productive with them. But, until now I was never able to manage to get this organized as the Education Ministry has never been cooperative and they were never interested."

Her break came with the German Cultural Institute which is sponsoring the whole workshop, and the Cultural Ministry which involved themselves to such an extent, that they organised people to come from all the cultural centers all over Sri Lanka.

"I got together 30 people from all over Sri Lanka. Twenty people are from the cultural centers whom I contacted through the Cultural Ministry, five are from the Town Hall Foundation Drama School, three from Jaffna, one from Batticaloa and one from Trincomalee. The participants from Jaffna, Batticaloa, and Trincomalee are from the Centre of Performing Arts which has branched itself out to all these areas under the direction of Father Savari," she said.

The whole workshop lasted three weeks. Throughout the workshop the participants learnt the basic techniques about drama and they learnt to develop them. The first technique they were taught was the free movement technique, in which they learnt to let the music take control of their actions. It was then that the students started moving to the music. They were initially lying in the posture of dead bodies and then Somaltha instructs them to wake up. The waking up procedure was slow, yet breathtaking. The movements were graceful and delicate. The music changes. They make contact with the person close to them, and then after the initial stages of friendship, the hatred sets in. Finally, the atmosphere is calm again, after the turbulence and they finally come to peace with each other. All this is done without a single word spoken by anyone; only through the movement of their bodies and their facial expressions.

The next item on their agenda was puppetry. The stage was set up within seconds and the puppets were on stage acting out little plays, which dealt with serious issues. The issues were of friendships blossoming among Tamils and Sinhalese . The puppet representing the Tamil person was handled by a girl who had come all the way from Jaffna.

"This workshop has certainly been useful," was what Ganageshwaran from Trincomalee had to say, while A. D. Subooshini agreed. "We learnt to be at ease with the Sinhala participants, and though we could not communicate with them language wise, we communicated through our love for drama."

"We come from areas where the war has been raging until recently, and we are glad to say that we can go back to our towns and teach other children affected by the war, something to love and enjoy," said another participant.

Language and race being no barrier these participants made sure that they shared their knowledge with everyone, keeping in mind that what brought them together was their love for the most important thing in their lives-drama.

Senaka Senanayake does his bit for peace
Brushing away sadness, negativity
By Thiruni Kelegama
His works are not simplistic as presented to the viewer. Deeply implied within them is his credo. He knows so. The tradition of Sri Lanka with its crafts oriented industry and the ancient mural traditions all have their bearings on the works of Senaka. He juxtaposes light and dark shades to enhance his own style and personal technique.

"My technique primarily consists of circular or oval areas of light and darkness. It has the quality of imparting movements, making the work style organic,"he says. The circular style he has developed, has evolved for three reasons: it creates movement, it creates dimension and it shows the continuous motion of life.

"I have experimented with many different styles and done many kinds of diverse paintings. The revolutionary themes, the story of Buddha's life, abstract, and environmental issues are some of the issues I dealt with." Talking about the recent exhibitions he held in India Senaka says, "This time I decided to draw from my imagination. I focussed mainly on the idea of peace, and a whole new prosperous world. I wanted people to get away from the sadness surrounding us and to get away from the negativity which is a main part of our lives.

"The main piece of this exhibition was a painting which was in three parts. It was a continuation, and I drew a pond full of lotuses," says Senaka pointing at a photograph of the picture. "I focused on the lotuses because, they are an essential part of Buddhism, and I am focusing on Buddhism here. I am also talking about peace and how it must become an integral part of our lives."

To have found a place of honour in the Delegates Lounge of the United Nations General Assembly in the capacity of a child artist to paint the mural there alongside two major Modern artists, one can safely say that Senaka was born with a brush in his hands.

Having recently exhibited in India, Senaka certainly has proved that he is an artist in a class of his own. "I have exhibited in India, as a child artist way back in 1966 and it certainly was a pleasure to exhibit there again."

The exhibitions, which were sponsored by Apollo Educational and Research Foundation, were held in Chennai at the Senate House and in Delhi at the India Habitat Centre. "The exhibition in Chennai was beautifully done. It was held in the evening and since it was an open air exhibition the streets in the area were lit up. A single lamp lit up each of the paintings, and just before the opening. I released two white doves hoping for continuous peace in Sri Lanka."

This had been the preview for the main exhibition, which was to be held in Delhi.

"For this exhibition, I focused mainly on positive themes. I used themes from nature, and tried to portray life in the simplest manner possible. I wanted people to try to forget all the misery around them, and focus on the simple joys in life. I wanted them to feel as if they were in another world. I hope I was successful in achieving this, said Senaka. Another picture was a painting titled "Pinna Patha". Though the presence of Buddha is not directly felt, Senaka has managed to create a spiritual ambiance that is meditated and represented by a group of monks with a female devotee interceding with utmost reverence. This dimension of sanctity and hallowedness is reinforced by the stupa in the background. "The sanctity has been enhanced with the white transparent bubbles within which the heads are contained instead of the usual halo. I think the bubbles tend to highlight and strengthen the main protagonists,"explains Senaka.

This technique of his is visible in every painting of his in this exhibition. The factor tends to reinforce Senaka's philosophy wherein every life on this earth is precious and should not be mindlessly destroyed. It is also obvious that Senaka is at home with peace and harmony loving creatures that inhabit the earth. And every brush stroke is caressed in a way that bespeaks of the joy and happiness that animates his creations, making it possible for the viewer to share his experience.

So how did he feel about returning to India after all these years? "I am delighted with the response I got from the Indians. They really appreciate art, and I am not only talking about connoisseurs. I am talking about students, and people from all walks of life. They are very supportive and their attitude is encouraging," he says smiling.

"I hope to have another exhibition in India next year in December. However, my next exhibition will be in Korea in March, and this way I hope, that I am paving the path for many other aspiring artists, so that they would also have the exposure that is much needed in Sri Lanka."

Magic of Rajasthan recreated through dance
There is certain magic about Rajasthan, and it is from this very breathtaking place which is renowned for its history and art and culture, that a dance troupe would be visiting Sri Lanka.

A 12 member Rajasthani folk dance troupe from India will be visiting Sri Lanka from December 22 to 29, at the invitation of the Sri Lankan Ministry of Cultural Affairs to participate in the National Dance Festival being organized at the Vihara Maha Devi Park in Colombo.

The group led by Mr. Umrao Khan Langa, will regale the audience with its repertoire of lively performances, delightful music, and colourful folk dances, rarely seen in Sri Lanka.

The land of warriors and royal elegance is exactly how anyone would describe Rajasthan. Majestic forts rise from the sands, and ornate palaces throb with a romantic charm, celebrated in song by ballad singers.

Located in the North West of India, the state of Rajasthan forms a part of the great Indian desert, and is famous for its sand dunes, breathtaking architecture, majestic forts, vibrant colours, and rich cultural traditions.

Folk dance of Rajasthan is characterised by brightly coloured costumes and pulsating folk music, reflecting the state's rich cultural heritage and glorious past.

The visit of the troupe is sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. The performances in Colombo and Kandy are being jointly organised by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs of Sri Lanka and the Indian High Commission in Colombo under the India- Sri Lanka Cultural Exchange Programme.

December 23- Performance at Town Hall , Matale,

December 24- Performance at Mahamaya Girls College, Kandy,

December 26- Performance at Elphinstone Theatre, Colombo,

December 27-29- Performance at the National Dance Festival at the Vihara Maha Devi Park, Colombo.

Invitations can be obtained at the Indian Cultural Centre, 133 Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 4, Tel No. 500014 or at the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, 8th Floor Sethsiripaya, Battaramulla (Mr. Manamendera Medawattegedara) Tel No. 888336.

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