by Dee Cee
'Funny Boy' to 'Amuthu Ilandariya'
Renowned dramatist Sugathapala de Silva always had the knack
of coining catchy titles - whether it be for dramas or the books
he wrote. He called his theatre group 'Ape Kattiya'. His first play
was 'Ekawalle Pol'. That was way back in 1958. Following 'Boardingkarayo
(1962) and 'Tattu Geval' (1964) came the one with the intriguing
title ' 'Harima Badu Hayak(1965) which became the talk of the town.
Then came 'Hele Negga Dong Putha' (1966). Many more followed right
up to the award winning 'Marasad' (1986), acclaimed as his best
several novels - both originals and translations - Sugath's latest
effort reached the bookstands a fortnight ago. It's the Sinhala
translation of Shyam Selvadurai's 'Funny Boy'. Sugath calls it 'Amuthu
Ilandariya', a rather curious title. A Sarasavi publication, it
took Sugath a few years to finish writing it. That's because he
was seriously ill for sometime. By the time he fell ill, he had
started translate but could only finish part of it. Having recovered,
he had somehow completed it even though he was not one hundred percent
It was a full
house at the Public Library auditorium and the organisers had done
a fine job more as a tribute to a man who had done so much for the
Sinhala theatre than a mere book launch.
A huge book
and an equally oversized pen set up at the centre of the stage symbolised
the event. Sugath's contribution to theatre spanning over four decades
was summed up through a street drama presented by the Colombo University
Cultural Circle. It was quite entertaining.
then outlined how the 'Sugathapala de Silva Rekavarana Padanama'
was formed to save Sugath and through the drama festival held sometime
back, managed to raise sufficient funds to help him in his hour
of need. Several drama producers had rallied round to make the project
the book, versatile actor W. Jayasiri made a lengthy, somewhat provocative,
speech making his observations on Shyam Selvadurai's theme.
It was nice to see Sugath at the launch enjoying the proceedings.
Though he looked tired, he didn't disappoint the many admirers who
rushed to get the book autographed. He obliged everyone. Though
it was a long wait to have a word with him, it was nice to see him
remember old faces and recollect incidents from the past. In fact,
I was quite moved reading the line he had added in the invitation
in his handwriting 'kalak nudutu mava balannath ekka enna'. It was
typical of Sugath.
My mind went
back to the sixties when we all rushed to the Lumbini Theatre to
see Sugath's creations. 'Ape Kattiya' was the rage of the day and
through it, blossomed a host of superb actors and actresses. Tony
Ranasinghe, G. W. Surendra, Wickrema Bogoda, Dharmasiri Wickremaratne,
Prema Ganegoda - to name a few. It was superb theatre - something
new and refreshing.
reminded us at the launch, Sugath's was a silent revolution in theatre
which many failed to appreciate.
Classy actor Peter de Almeida is all geared up to turn in another
memorable performance in 'Ira Mediyama', Prasanna Vithanage's latest
creation. Meeting quite by accident at the World Trade Centre the
day before shooting began, Peter was looking forward to the company
of a host of newcomers, most of them refugees picked by Prasanna
from camps to act in the film. Apart from Peter, there are just
three others from the stage.
For the past
one and a half years Prasanna had been planning this. From the battlefront
in 'Purahanda Kaluwara' he moves over to the problem of refugees
in 'Ira Madiyama' .
He has chosen
three locations - Talaimannar, Kalpitiya and Colombo - to develop
on his new 'finds', Prasanna said "it will be an authentic
cast, if you like to put it that way.
By Thiruni Kelegama
"My pictures are a result of my memories of Sri Lanka,"
said Neville Weereratne as his wife Sybil Keyt agreed.
years of painting and countless exhibitions behind them, Neville
and Sybil are
still enthusiastic about their work and passionate about their motherland.
The husband and wife duo are preparing yet again to hold an exhibition
from September 21 to October 6 at the Barefoot Gallery. On display
will be the fruits of two years of painting of what they know and
love both in Sri Lanka and abroad.
Sybil belong to a generation of artists who have kept company with
or been under the tutelage of the likes of Richard Gabriel, who
was the art teacher at St. Joseph, Lionel Wendt and Ivan Pieris.Those
famous names all belonged to the Group of '43 and the Ceylon Society
exhibited his work in London, an achievement for someone who used
to be beaten on his knuckles by his teacher for wasting his time.
Sybil studied art under the guidance of Cora Abraham.
of painting is organisation," says Neville when asked about
his views on art and originality. "You have to be able to organise
and create the composition. That is where originality comes in."
As for their
views on teaching art to children, both believe that straight lines,
squares and coconut trees crossing each other on a sunset bathed
beach are not what children should be drawing. They believe that
children should be allowed to play around with paints and chalks
and other materials, experiment with colours and get a feel for
work was first exhibited in 'house exhibitions' during the time
of the Group of '43.
They also exhibited
their work in Australia where they lived for more than 25 years.
Apart from being an artist, Neville is a one-time journalist, having
been the features editor of the Observer in the early 1960s and
also having worked as a journalist in Australia.
Both feel that
whether art is modern or conventional a relationship with nature
This is reflected
in most of their work. Birds play an important role in their paintings.
'The Peace Doves' by Neville catches my eye. The doves are small
but they are strikingly placed in the midst of a yellow and grey
background. "This is a gouache painting," he explains.
"The whole painting started with a doodle. I drew a doodle
and it emerged as a dove. The second doodle also emerged as another
dove. I chose colours which I felt would give the impression of
peace and hence the 'Peace Doves' were born," he said.
of my work this time is going to be gouache. The fine brush does
wonders, I think," says Neville as he explains his painting-
'Raga for Flute'.
of decorative architecture has been inspired by Moghul culture.
Before doing the actual painting, I did a number of studies of each
musician in the painting. The studies included an ink drawing and
a study in watercolour. They will be exhibited alongside the 'Raga
for Flute'," he says.
A smaller gouache
also catches my eye. Titled 'Head in Blue Setting', the picture
was of a head of a woman on blue paper. Eyes closed, the figure
seemed to convey a message of tranquillity.
has experimented with a new form of art. "I really don't know
what you can call this type of art. Maybe a collage and mixed media,"
she says, showing me 'The Doorway' and 'Festive Bulls'.
different kinds of coloured paper and cut through it and insert
other kinds of paper. The final result consists of a number of different
types of paper and I have drawn over some and managed to create
a collage effect."
has a number of arches which Sybil has cut into to create a never-ending
effect. The gold and red hues contrast with the white arch. The
figure of the crouching lady adds depth to the picture implying
there is life in this lonely place. "That is a piece of paper,"
Sybil says. "I tore a piece of paper and pasted it there, thinking
that it would be much better than painting a figure there."
a passion for arches. There is something infinitely romantic and
mysterious about them," she says when I ask why there are so
many arches in her paintings.
duo has produced some wonderful paintings which capture a magical
side to Sri Lanka, and if you want to experience that magic don't
miss the exhibition.
edition of travel book of bygone age
The fifth edition of Bella Sidney Woolf's 'How to See Ceylon'
published by Visidunu Prakahsakayo, Boralesgamuwa was launched at
the Colombo International Book Fair which ends today at the BMICH.
Bella Sidney Woolf (sister of Leonard Woolf) How to See Ceylon,
was first published in 1914 and considered by most as the first
pocket guidebook to the island. It was intended to help travellers
"to fuller enjoyment and understanding of the island and its
inhabitants". Indeed it proved to be so, considering that three
more editions followed in the years 1922, 1924 and 1929 respectively.
enthusiastically recommends the best ways of motoring the "Sunny
Roads Of Ceylon"; she also does not miss describing the pleasures
of the rail trips. Care has also been given to provide background/historical
information of the places visited and also to provide general information
on the island which "contains a wealth of interesting and mostly
long forgotten details of a bygone age of travel" to today's
The book also
contains her own hints to travellers such as "Do not sleep
under a fan unless a blanket is wrapped around your body",
"...... kurumbas and plantains are the only safe things to
buy" and appeals such as "As you traverse this beautiful
island, consider the life and limb of the villager".
to Ceylon in 1907 to visit her brother, Leonard Woolf - who was
stationed in Kandy at that time. In 1910 she married Robert Lock,
the Assistant Director of the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens.
This book contains
a number of black-and-white photographs and a colour map of Ceylon.
The new edition also contains an introduction titled "Bella
Woolf: Seeing The Exotic Other" by Richard Boyle.
Throw out sterile
methods, bring in innovation
Dias shares some thoughts on the 2nd International
Conference of the Sri Lanka English Language Teachers Association,
held at the Galadari Hotel from August 30 to September 1
The 2nd International
Conference of the Sri Lanka English Language Teachers Association
(SLELTA) was organized with amazing competence and co-ordination.
There were more than 400 participants from all over Sri Lanka, as
well as some international delegates from around South Asia and
presenters from as far as Mexico and Holland.
address was given by Prof. Thiru Kandiah, the Chair of SLELTA. In
a profound speech, Prof. Kandiah enumerated the various practices
in English Language Teaching, and called for all methodology and
'techniques' currently canonized to be thrown out so that real 'innovation'
could take place in each learning environment. (The theme of the
Conference was 'Innovation in English Language Teaching').
It is sadly
true that all teaching practices, once they have evolved, are then
held up as models to be revered, even when they become outdated
and sterile in different environments. Each technique or practice
has to be examined for its merits, and adopted only if suitable
to the particular learning environment. Forster's cliche 'only connect',
which was quoted by the speaker, is a good phrase to keep in mind
when evaluating teaching methods.
A talk on 'Education
Through the Medium of English as an Additional Language' (English
Medium Education or EME in short) by John Clegg was followed by
a workshop by him on 'Teaching Subjects Through the Medium of English
as a Second Language' (currently of great relevance to our country).
Clegg, a free-lance Education Consultant who has worked in a number
of countries where EME was introduced, raised some pertinent issues.
He stressed that a child's cognitive ability would be greatly impaired
if he were taught in the Second Language straight away (i.e. English)
and that learning one's First Language was very essential. He also
mentioned that teachers of each subject should have 'adequate' competence
in the language, and that supervision of teaching through this medium
be done by English teachers.
talk of English being essential for social mobility, the thrust
for English Medium Education comes from 'middle-class' parents who
have the dominant voice in our urban societies (and perhaps at policy-making
levels) who want their children educated in English because they
are unable to (or choose not to?) communicate in their First Language.
Thus, schools that have started this programme at various grade
levels have a selection process on the basis of fluency in English.
John Clegg suggested that we would then be marginalizing children
who are already socially deprived, thereby maintaining the status
quo of the 'class' divide. (i.e. urban/rural and English speaking/non-English
speaking divides). He felt that either all who wish should be allowed
to follow EME, or that some consideration be given to the subject
competency of the student, irrespective of the medium. That is indeed
food for thought, especially for school administrators who battle
with time-table/classroom logistics. The eagerness and the enthusiasm
shown by the local participants were very encouraging. As Tony O'Brien,
Director, British Council, observed, it was the only conference
he had attended where the participants were punctual for every session.
I would like
to end my ruminations with the passage quoted in the final plenary
by Prof. Ryhana Raheem, who was elected the new Chair of SLELTA
at the AGM held on the last day of the conference: The ambitious
curriculum designs of state policies often give lip service to the
realities and histories that different schooling contexts have to
cope with: underdeveloped human and physical resources, the entrenchment
of ritualised practices of teaching and learning, the poor administration
and management of the curriculum renewal process, the inability
of teacher educators to reconceptualise their role as promoters
of alternative visions of teaching and learning, the arrogance of
teacher educators who value theoretical knowledge above the practical
knowledge of teachers and the unreflective teachers who dismiss
the value of theory. Renewal of the system entails conversion at
the lowest and most important level: the way teachers think about
addressing the specific realities within their own schools using
the resources at hand. (Baker 1998)