Mirror Magazine
Bridal splendour

Appearing on our bridal cover issue this week is model Asha in a creation by Dharini Fernando. Her head dress and bouquet were by Heshantha Fernando


Art of being courageous
By Esther Williams

Can you imagine your back collapsing all of a sudden, your spine bending to a 90-degree angle and being unable to straighten yourself? This is exactly what happened to the exuberant Dina Fernando when she was 13. Her condition called scoliosis or curvature of the spine usually occurs in girls, but the reasons are yet unknown.

Dina was fitted with a leather and steel brace, stretching from the hip to the chin to hold her back and neck in position. Normal extra-curricular activities like sports were impossible though she continued to attend St. Paul's School, Bambalapitiya. The family did not know of any doctor who was willing to perform an operation in Sri Lanka. All of them recommended that she go to the UK or Singapore, which was impossible as they lacked the needed resources.

The uncomfortable brace that Dina had to wear day and night was changed every week. "It was awkward and unbearably hot wearing it," says Dina, recalling the time when she felt miserable and helpless. Forced to give up school after her O/Levels, she went for typing classes and took several computer courses and now is a qualified graphics designer. Since then she has applied to several advertising agencies but without any success.

In December '90 and March '92, Dina underwent two major operations under the care of Dr. J. R. Corea who undertook to do the risky operation free of charge. Each was an 8-hour surgery of the spine where a metal rod was fixed. The bone grafting that was done now holds her spine in place.

After each of the operations, Dina was bed ridden for two months and had to wear a plaster of Paris jacket for six months. Her back is not altogether straight now. Her spine is still bent at an angle of 55 degrees. Nevertheless she is able to move about, swim and walk and attend to normal functions. No further medical treatment can be given to Dina. She still suffers from intense pain from time to time when she is in need of painkillers.

Perhaps it was those painful years, that evoked in Dina that need to give expression to the creative side of her life. She had been fond of sketching as a child and recalls that her mother would catch her drawing all over the walls and cupboards. Encouraged by her, she enrolled at the YWCA Vocational Training Centre for a four-year programme - Art for Beginners and received a silver medal and two certificates for her art while at the YWCA.

Determined to improve, Dina has attended art classes with Lathifa Ismail during the past five years. Under her guidance she has developed her own technique using water colours and oils on canvas, her speciality being landscapes and still life. Dina draws inspiration from nature, which remains the theme for most of her work. She loves to go to the countryside and paint the sky, leaves and all the little elements of nature. She now intends to train with S. H. Sarath to improve on her abstract painting technique. Painting, she says, gives her tremendous satisfaction.

Dina has participated in a few joint exhibitions in school and at the YWCA but will be going solo in 'Voice of Nature', where she will exhibit 35 paintings, landscapes, still life and abstracts done using oils, water and soft pastels. The exhibition is open to the public on June 8 and 9 between 9.00 am and 7.30 p.m. at the Lionel Wendt Art Gallery.

Dina and her family now know that if her condition had been detected earlier, perhaps when she was 5 or 6, she would have had a fair chance of complete recovery. Knowing that does not make it any easier for her. She is thankful for her recovery thus far and is grateful to her family and friends for their encouragement and Ms. Ismail for her support in making her the artist she is. "Her perseverance and faith in God has carried her through her most difficult moments and given her the courage to carry on," says her father Cecil Fernando. Dina also teaches Sunday School at the Methodist Church.

Dina's courage and positive attitude are an inspiration to everyone, not only to those who are differently-abled. "I always choose the most difficult subjects to paint, intricate details that require the most skill," says this courageous young woman.

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