off simplicity, brilliance and wit
Receiving a Journalism Award of Excellence from The Editors’
Guild of Sri Lanka
was indeed sad to hear of cartoonist Wijesoma's death. He was a
brilliant cartoonist. A simple, kind-hearted man, he was also a
great nature lover and fine conversationalist.
the good fortune of getting to know him closely during a short stint
I had with the Upali Group of Newspapers. We used to chat about
many topics - from politics to jungle lore. Often in the late mornings
I would see him roaming around in office - aimlessly I thought.
No - he was looking for an idea for a cartoon for the next morning's
paper. He would go to the library, scan the day's newspapers, discuss
with friends what was happening in the country - all to hit upon
the subject for the next day's cartoon.
I met him at his exhibition held at the BMICH to mark the launch
of his second collection of cartoons 'Wijesoma - cartoon ekathuwak'
('A Collection of Cartoons by Wijesoma') released in 1985, he lamented
about not knowing how to preserve the thousands of cartoons he had
1990 he presented the collection to the Sri Jayawardenapura University.
They were to open a section in the library to preserve them. In
fact, I remember going for the exhibition of his cartoons organised
by the University in August 1990 which was opened by Professor Sarachchandra.
a few months later, he found them lying there in a couple of boxes.
He had brought them back. He was glad that his wife Mallika had
carefully dated and filed the cartoons "with the hope that
some day it would help me bring out a book of cartoons".
dedicated his second book to her. We are lucky we have at least
the two books to remember him. They are fine political commentaries
of our times.
Among the few politicians who asked for the original cartoon was
Anura Bandaranaike, Wijesoma told me. He always asked for the cartoons
which featured him.
a note to the second book (1997) Wijesoma referred to the 'period
of terror' ('bheeshana vakavaanuva') over one and a half decades.
"Even I was faced with threats of abduction and bodily harm.
The cartoons produced during this period will join the political
history of this country as a mirror of that period" he wrote.
He emphasized that "my readers were always with me".
was never affected by his fame and reputation as the foremost political
cartoonist of the day. As I wrote many years ago, "simple and
unassuming Wijesoma hasn't changed over the years - whether in looks
or his ways. He is the same old Punchi Singho in his white open
collar, short sleeved shirt and light trousers". He remained
so till the last.