Blues, browns and blacks of a material world
By Thiruni Kelegama
"If I have touched your heart in any possible way, I shall claim to be an accomplished being...." reads the artist's note.

And how I set about touching your heart, is through my paintings, says Thanushka Wijayapala.

This young artist, aged 23, will hold another of her exhibitions from September 27 - 30 at the Art Gallery, Colombo. Titled "The World Outside', Thanushka will exhibit 15 acrylic paintings which will portray paintings of 'life in the material world'.

"I believe that there are two kinds of worlds- the material world and the idealistic world. I try my best to focus on and portray the materialistic world, through my paintings. An idealistic world is everyone's dream and maybe my future paintings will focus on this world, but until then I am satisfied with my impressions of the material world..." says this budding artist.

She began painting in 1985, at Mahamaya Girls College, Kandy and has already had two solo exhibitions. Her first was titled "Abstract Visions Through Reality" and her second was "Silence."

"I paint figures," she says. True enough, nearly all her paintings contained female figures. "Most often the colours I use are dark blues, browns and black. They somehow seem to represent the material world." 'Kamma' portrays a woman seated on a bed, bemoaning her sins. She has been placed within a circle and tiny red strokes fill the painting. "The red strokes symbolise her sins..." Thanushka explains. "I like to paint in blue too..." she says indicating the different shades of blue which make up the picture.

Her most interesting picture is an interpretation of Vincent van Gogh's 'Sunflowers'. "The female figure in my painting is the vase in Vincent's.

"I have used almost the same shades of yellow and the same number of sunflowers. Van Gogh, was one of the greatest artists ever," she explains. "it is a pity that no one understood him and that led him to commit suicide. "That is what I try to show in my painting. That artists should be understood."

"My paintings are a result of immense thought. I think about what I am going to paint for days and do a number of studies. But, the painting can be finished in about a day," she says. "The idea for the painting develops slowly in my mind and I think it out to the last detail."

Big dreams for 'little theatre'
A new kind of theatre to revive and foster the drama scene in Sri Lanka. That is the thinking behind the 'Little Theatre' concept of a famous name in theatre circles, Namel Weeramuni and his wife Malini Weeramuni and their Art Circle.

Their Little Theatre named the "Namel and Malini Punchi Theatre" will be located in Borella. It has been their dream, nurtured secretly with patience and fortitude, from the '60s, they confess.

The Arts Circle believes the Little Theatre will promote an appreciative and intelligent audience and keep alive the theatre arts. Formed in early 1976, the Arts Circle has been more active abroad, since Namel and Malini were resident in foreign climes for a long time, though returning to Sri Lanka periodically to present theatrical productions and related events.

It is well known that dramatists are discouraged because they do not have a proper and readily available venue for rehearsals. The Circle's intention is not only to provide a venue for rehearsals of plays but also a stage for small audiences to view plays and other events. The objective of this project will be to make available such a theatre as a national and international venue to all artistes.

It will also be to establish the theatre as a centre in the promotion of national and international peace and harmony through the medium of art and drama.

They will also try to create an awareness and pride of the theatrical arts and their cultural values among the youth and general public.

The main objective of the Little Theatre, however will be to create a low cost play production scheme and promote a regular theatre audience through a membership drive. They also hope to produce both Sinhala and English plays and since the audience will be limited to 100 people, the plays will run for about two weeks.

The inaugural foundation-laying ceremony of the "Punchi Theatre" building will be on October 23.

Cultural miscellany
The Trinity College, National Drum and Dance Troupe recently celebrated its 30th anniversary with a presentation of delightful cultural miscellany.

It is traditional to pay tribute to the guardian deity on such an occasion and so it was the opening item for the evening. With the horns and horanas and drums, and particularly the rich and resonant sound of the geta bera the item was impressively executed.

In the tradition of the low country Kolam dance, the story of Jasa and Lenchina was beautifully played. There was the roguish Jasa with his cavorts and capers but it was pretty Lenchina who stole the show and charmed the audience, full of nonchalant coquettish teasing and chiding.

Then there were the six dancers on whom the coveted Ves status has been bestowed, which is the highest recognition a Kandyan dancer could hope to attain. They were magnificent with their heads held high with justifiable pride enacting a dance sequence from that enduring Kohombakankariya.

The finale was the most striking, featuring almost all groups involved in the show. It was a performance with distinct clarity, allowing for group solos of the different instruments and drums.
-Asoka Weerakoon

Choral Festival
September 29, is the Festival of St. Michael and All Angels and churches all over the world dedicated to St. Michael celebrate their patronal festival at this time. The Church at Polwatte, Colombo 3 dedicated to St. Michael and all Angels keeps the 115th Anniversary of its dedication and the 80th anniversary of the installation of the pipe organ presented by Sir Thomas Villiers in memory of his son who died in World War I.

The Church will hold a Choral Festival on September 29, at 6 p.m. Anthems by Ralph Vaughan-Williams, Samuel Wesley and others, will be sung by the choir interspersed with readings and congregational hymns.

Cora Abraham set free young artists
By Alfreda de Silva
In that galaxy of teachers who formed the staff of the legendary Girton School, Nugegoda, was Cora Abraham - a courageous, outspoken, distinctive personality with a wonderful sense of humour.

She was my English teacher at Girton from Sixth Grade to the Matriculation. She also taught us geography and mathematics and had the knack of correlating subjects like geography and English in a way that was totally interesting to the student.

Essays could take in topics ranging from 'Breakfast in an igloo' to 'A broiling afternoon in a rain-forest in Ceylon' or 'Listening to the devil-bird at night'. Imagination was all, after a chat between teacher and pupils.

We were fascinated with Mrs. Abraham's original dress-sense - pastel cotton khaddar frocks in green, orange or yellow (which she pronounced 'jello'), or at the other end of the spectrum, shocking pink or indigo. These were worn with beige stockings and smart shoes.

They were set off by matching hand - woven indikola belt and hat from Kalutara. The latter graced the staff room in solitary splendour each day. Right down to her hand bags Mrs. Abraham supported local industries.

These tastes could have begun in Madras where she worked for some time with the YWCA, after her term of study at the Government Training College in Colombo. She specialized in the teaching of English. She was the sister of Shelton Blacker, the Manager of Girton. Their grandfather, William Blacker of British origin had come to Ceylon with the first batch of English officials of the Indian government after the capitulation of Colombo by the Dutch.

After many years of teaching in the schools of Colombo and the outstations, Mrs. Abraham retired. Suddenly we had news that she had opened an Art School known as the Melbourne Art Classes, so called because they were held in a garage of her home in Melbourne Avenue. These classes are now in their 53rd year. Those who had never known the real Mrs. Abraham, the artist with words and with freedom of expression as her technique were surprised. But not those who had come under her spell in an English classroom. Mrs. Abraham's Art School went from strength to strength. Distinguished artists like Richard Gabriel and Mallika Kulasekera, and Laki Senanayake joined her staff, and her students made a name for themselves both here and abroad. These art classes are now run by Chandra Thenuwara and Nalini Weerasinghe.

Mrs. A was self-taught, having immersed herself in the writings and philosophy of the famous Austrian artist Cizek which projected art as the door through which children savoured mental stimulation and the enjoyment of freedom.

She invited me to her very first exhibition of her young artists' work fifty years ago at the National Art Gallery.

It captivated me with its startling newness and the freedom of choice to express themselves that the youngsters displayed.

My daughter was five years old when I took her to Mrs. Abraham's art classes and I was delighted with her progress.

At an exhibition the next year I saw how painters and paintings expressed their provocative perceptions. They defied tradition and old worn-out trends. The ages of the artists ranged from four to fourteen. My daughter was six.

The walls clanged with colour - purple elephants trumpeted; green cows champed red grass; wild geese flew over black lilies. There were people too in these pictures of water colours, pastels, oils, gouache, acrylic and charcoal. Parents and grandparents moved around the National Art Gallery.

Cora Abraham, who had inspired this profusion of painting, and believed that art was an expression of both love and hate, courage and fear, joy and grief; that art was therapy, art was all, shepherded me to the far wall, and asked me, "What do you think of that?" "Intriguing," I said. The water colour prominently displayed was filled with resonances and disonances of paint content and colour, balanced artistically against each other.

The large work was divided into three parallel horizonal sections - white, bright yellow and turquoise blue for background. On it an outsize distorted face painted orange with green eyes, red lips askew, and white teeth, glared under a head of coiled black hair. I stared and stared.

Mrs A, now colourfully garbed in salwar kameez, a scarf floating behind her and slippers on her feet, gave me a catalogue and moved away. I turned its pages. There was the name of the artist and beneath it, very simply stated: 'Mummy in a temper'.

Over the heads of the crowd my child had seen me in front of her picture. She came beaming towards me, pleased with herself, innocently happy, and took my hand as I bent down to hug her.

Kala Korner by Dee Cee

An encyclopaedia in Sinhala for students
It never dawned on me that Percy Jayamanne had been a journalist for over forty years. Meeting him the other day, it was evident that he hasn't changed much, at least not in physical appearance, over the years. Having got to know him during my Lake House days when he joined the Silumina editorial staff, we have been in contact right through and I have always appreciated his keen interest in exposing his readers to contemporary knowledge.

Percy has been working on a big project for many years - the compilation of an encyclopedia in Sinhala. Years of planning resulted in the first volume being released a few months back. The second volume is just out. Percy's plan is to complete the project in 15 volumes. He hopes to release an issue every month.

Percy has always been very methodical in his work. When he started several special supplements in the journals he worked for - 'Silumina', 'Vijaya' and 'Navayugaya' (his last assignment was as Editor, Navayugaya) - with the objective of imparting knowledge to the readers, he collected a lot of material that he catalogued systematically with the hope of publishing them in volume form. 'Lama Ha Yovun Vishva Koshaya' (Children's & Youth Encyclopaedia) is the outcome.

"While working on numerous newspapers and journals, I realised the thirst for knowledge. The readers kept asking so many questions. The information I gathered in answering readers' queries helped me in compiling the encyclopaedia,' Percy says.

Wide coverage
Though the encyclopaedia is primarily meant for students, even at my age, I found the first volume quite interesting. It deals with words beginning with the first letter of the Sinhala alphabet 'a'. The topics cover a wide range, both foreign and local. The inclusion of local subjects makes it more appealing since these are not readily available for quick reference.

Ampara, for example, is covered extensively giving the reader valuable information. Life sketches of personalities in numerous fields including those in the arts are also included. How many of us can remember that there were nine Sinhala kings with the name Agbo? Percy lists them all with historical notes about each one.

Well illustrated with a lot of pictures, sketches and maps, there are several pages printed on art paper with colour photographs too. The first volume running into190 pages has a fine finish with easy to read clean print. The use of English terms as an additional guide where appropriate is handy.

Readers' Club
Percy has also started an 'Encyclopaedia Club' offering a number of services to the members. In addition to a 35% discount on copies of the Encyclopaedia, they will be offered additional information on any subject they like. They will be guided on where to look for further reference. The members will also be encouraged to exchange information among themselves thereby encouraging them to improve their knowledge.

Weeraratnes are back
The handy invitation to 'A Preview of the recent work of Sybil Keyt and Neville Weeraratne' carries a colourful drawing by Sybil - a glimpse of what we can expect at the Barefoot Gallery from today onwards.

Domiciled in Australia, Sybil and Neville make it a point to return at regular intervals and let us enjoy their creative pursuits.

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