Mirror Magazine
5th November 2000
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A male show

It may be controversial," says Dhanushka Amarasekera with a smile, giving me a random preview of her forthcoming exhibition of photographs to be shown at the Barefoot Gallery in Colombo.

She hardly looks controversial, this petite twenty-something photographer, but one glance at her work will get you thinking. Not for Dhanushka the chocolate box images. She photographs the male - presenting images that capture you with their sheer intensity.

Her reasoning is simple. Popular culture all over the world, more so in our country finds the woman Imagestereotyped in many ways. "Everywhere we turn, we see images of women. Beautiful female models are posed in various ways by male photographers. The women become the subject of 'masculine gaze' or the women are portrayed looking at each other in a narcisstic fashion. Most material thus offers Imageviewing pleasure for males. Sometimes it gets too much and that's one reason why I use the male body as a subject in my photographs. I'm offering something for the viewing pleasure of females, in short the development of the 'female gaze'," Dhanushka says. 

The words may come across strong, but she is no placard-carrying feminist. For this old Visakhian, 'feminism is more a subtle thing'. She pursued her interest in the arts in Australia and though beginning her studies for a Visual Arts degree from the Queensland University of Technology majoring in painting, she soon found photography to be more her forte. She still paints, she confesses, but "it takes too much Imagetime." 

Some photos in her forthcoming exhibition will have two models, sometimes in the nude, and though this may trigger controversy, she says she felt the need to progess and experiment. "I love photography. I Imagefound the subject matter interesting. It's not that I'm doing it for political reasons or to make a statement," she says. "I would like to think my photography presents a contemporary vision of male beauty." Are they erotic? Perhaps, subtly suggestive, she feels. 

The photographs in black and white are shot in natural light and in natural surroundings. Often the backdrop is water, maybe because she finds the movement fascinating. Some day she would like to do some work in a really deserted area. Dhanushka explains that she directs the model. "He does not look Imageat the camera -he isn't acting. But he's there to be seen by another. "In this respect, he is 'feminised." Thus far she's preferred working with amateur models, finding them fresh and easier to pose. 

Asked whether 'the male' will continue to hold her interest, she is contemplative. She would like to go deeper into the subject, she says. "Till now, the images are beautified...maybe it could be the opposite," she muses.

Focusing on the male, as she does, in our conservative society, what kind of a response does she get, one wonders. "My family is a bit embarrassed, but overall the response has been very positive," she smiles.

Dhanushka's exhibition which will feature around 50-60 of her recent photographs will be on at the Barefoot Gallery from November 14-21.

Lankans will be Lankans

New York - A group of Americans walking past a New York city park recently were intrigued with what they saw: 10 Sri Lankan women feverishly scraping coconuts right in the middle of the greenery Imagewhile two men were engaged in a pillow fight - to the cheers of about 1,500 spectators.

It was a summer picnic with heavy overtones of the traditional Sinhala and Tamil New Year celebrations. Although the celebrations were belated, the spirit was there in abundance: teenage avuruddhu kumaris, adult avuruddhu kumaris and the traditional tug-of-war between men and between women.

The climax of the day's proceedings - another event which intrigued American passers-by was the arduous climb to the top of a grease pole. Not really Himalayan, but perhaps close to what the ImageAmericans call the slippery slope.

The winning team comprising three Sri Lankan youth walked away with the prize money of US$ 1,000 (about Rs. 80,000). Setting up the grease pole alone cost about US$ 500.

The summer festival, which was held at Midland Beach Park in Staten Island, New York, was organized by Ruwan Wijesinghe, the owner of Lakruwana, a popular Sri Lankan restaurant in New York city.

Wijesinghe, who was assisted by a committee comprising Nimal Prema-ratne, Sisira Kumarasinghe and Harischandra Weera-singhe, said he spent a total of US$ 12,000 on the celebrations. A princely sum of money if converted into Sri Lankan rupees.

About 1,000 food parcels - chicken buriyani prepared in the early hours of the morning at Lakruwana were given out free to all spectators. The tent where the food was distributed resembled a Vesak dansal maduwa in the suburbs of Colombo.

There were also three Sri Lankan musical groups in attendance: the Universe, the Friends and the Galle Road Boys - playing a medley of Sinhala songs and bailas.

The organizers also held three beauty contests. The winners were: Sakila de Silva (Avuruddhu Kumari, with runners-up Taniya Joseph and Eshani Munasinghe); Kasuni Nanayakkara (Mal Kumari, with runners-up Charya de Silva and Kasuni Navinna); and Tiara Wouterz (Sigithi Kumari, with runners-up Christina de Silva and Asha Colombage). The coconut scraping contest was won by Mala Rajapakse. 

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