The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

A journey that opened a whole new world

Book facts | Unforgettable Cora Abraham by Chandra Thenuwara

The impact she made on the staff, students and parents of what was originally known as the Melbourne Art Classes, has been enduring. After her death, her successor, Nalini Jayatunge, had the full backing of the staff in re-naming this unique art school as The Cora Abraham Art Classes.
Mrs. Abraham’s unique quality lay in her intuitive grasp of the fact that every child has his/her own perception of what the eye sees, whether it be nature or everyday scenes and objects. So, she did not instruct a child in the “proper” way to draw a flower or a sunset or a cat.
Her genius lay in her ability to accept the child’s vision without laying down instructions, and yet to be able to encourage the development of inherent talent.

So, generations of children found delight in their initiation into drawing and painting and sculpture because their creativity was recognized for what it was worth by Mrs. Abraham and her teachers.

Her star pupil was, perhaps, the late Anil Gamini Jayasuriya who later served on the Board of Trustees until his death.
Chandra Thenuwara, another of Mrs. Abraham’s outstandingly gifted pupils, was among the youthful pioneers who formed the very first batch of students with whom Mrs. Abraham launched what was, in the early 1940s, the first art school of its kind.

Chandra told me that Mrs. Abraham was fortunate to have the full backing of a highly respected Schools Art Inspector of that time, Geoffrey Beling, when she held the first exhibition of work done by her pupils. Thereafter, she went from strength to strength.

In adult life, Chandra joined Mrs. Abraham’s staff and even when she branched off into textile technology and became an acknowledged expert in that field, she always kept in close touch with her Guru and her flourishing art classes.

A long-time Board member, she has now produced a gem of a beautifully illustrated, fascinating booklet recapturing the magic of a long train journey through India that she and a small group of students made with Cora Abraham as organizer and expert guide, way back in 1949.
These articles, vividly recalling that journey which opened the young women’s eyes to the infinite riches of Indian history and culture, were first published in “SPICE” and its appearance now in book form was made possible through the generous co-operation of another ever-grateful pupil of Mrs. Abraham, Prasad Abu Bakr who is founder-editor of “SPICE”, an intriguing magazine connected with travel and the hospitality trade.
Chandra’s book is a compilation of articles written during the years 2008 to 2012 and in addition to the photographs of places visited, it carries the writer-artist’s own vivid paintings of scenes and images that impressed themselves on her sensitive perception of the incredible diversity of India’s treasures.

As she confesses, this first visit of hers sparked of an ongoing love-affair with the great subcontinent which has led to her re-visiting India on a regular basis, a sort-of constant pilgrimage.

Proceeds from the sale of her book will go towards a sponsorship fund maintained by the school for the publication of a work by Neville Weeraratne (another close associate of Mrs. Abraham in days gone by), entitled: The Artist in Every Child- the Legacy of Cora Abraham.

The book is available at Barefoot Gallery, Paradise Road Bookshop, Casa Serena, Sapumal Foundation Gallery, Vijitha Yapa Bookshops and Cora Abraham Art Classes – Price Rs.350

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