Striking a carefree pose is our young
She's got what most women die for. Beauty, glamour, height and no, she's not a Miss Universe. She's modelled with Claudia Schiffer dined with Cindy Crawford and is friendly with Michael Jackson. Melinda Woods our cover girl this week is an international model who's in Sri Lanka for the opening of the Sri Lanka's first Rock Cafe.
The Rock Cafe the only one of its kind in this country will serve customers food prepared from personal recipes of some of the big names in the music world. The Cafe will also display a great memorabilia collection, some of which cannot be found in any part of the world.
Melinda has loads of modelling experience behind her. She has modelled for Gucci and Armani, took to the cat walk to display Michael Klein's designs and played a big role in the 1996 Milan Fashion show.
Being an Australian, her experience covers a wide spectrum of Australian fashion shows. She's opened the Australian Grand Prix which is a massive event there and was also a part of the opening of the Australian Planet Hollywood which she did with Basketball star Shaquile O'Neil. "It's so funny. I was so short next to him when actually I am not" she says with a twinkle in her eye. Among the other celebrities at the event were Bruce Willis, Demi Moore and Cindy Crawford.
What is special about Melinda is that she is not just beautiful. Behind her good looks lies personality, talent and intelligence. She is a graduate in psychology of the Sydney University.
Melinda's success began early. She got into the profession attempting to finance her studies and found herself soon becoming the youngest Australian to win a big contract. The Cosmopolitan, Cleo, Elle, Dolly are just a few fashion magazines that have displayed her photographs. She admits it's not an easy career but appears to love every moment of the glamour, glitter and excitement.
Melinda has visited just a few places in Sri Lanka and loves the beaches. "It's stunning" she says. She talks of how people only associate Sri Lanka with cricket and not its scenic beauty. "It's a well kept secret" she says.
She has massive prospects for her career but most importantly her immediate plans include developing her career in acting.
Raising eyebrows in London these days is the hottest art exhibition in town, entitled 'Sensation' at the once staid and stuffy Royal Academy. It features pieces from the private collection of advertising supremo Saatchi , amongst them some by acclaimed artist Damien Hirst, who had gained a dubious fame for slicing up cows and sharks and placing them in large tanks filled with formaldehyde.
On display at the Academy is the shark piece which is rather pretentiously entitled ' The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living'. This is because if he had actually called it 'Shark in Formaldehyde' he wouldn't have been able to wangle however many million pounds he wangled out of Saatchi. Actually , these publicity-stunts-masquerading-as-art paled in comparison with the ingenuity of some of his other pieces - for instance, there was one which consisted of a glass cage containing a hunk of rotting beef around which real flies buzzed before incinerating themselves in an insect electrocutor. What added that corruscating touch of verisimilitude was a small vent set into the side of the cage which allowed the viewers to sample the full stench of rotting carcass. Yum Yum. Maybe Hirst should leave his body to medical science and allow himself to be sliced up and put on display - now that would be an exhibition worth attending.
On a more serene level is Rachael Whitehead's work, which explores the concept of negative space, taking plaster casts of the insides of rooms and the undersides of chairs. It's called 'Untitled (One Hundred Spaces)' a title which strikes me as being completely pretentious. If it's untitled , why subtitle it 'One Hundred Spaces'? Sounds too unbelievable to be true ? Probably. But then again most of what is being billed as the Conceptual Art movement is simply decontextualisation taken to extremes. A shark in water is a shark. Remove a shark from the water and it becomes art.
Black artist Chris Ofili goes one step further by using actual elephant dung in one of his canvases , entitled 'Afrodizzia' . Presumably this makes all those signs saying 'Please do not touch the exhibit' wholly superfluous. But there were some truly disturbing pieces exhibited as well - the work of brothers Dinos and Jake Chapman for instance featured mannequins of pre-pubescent boys and girls, clad in designer sneakers, with sexual organs replacing their noses and ears - eerie and very disconcerting.
Also brutally honest were a series of photos by Richard Billingham of his parents, a working class couple who live in a squalid flat somewhere in the North of England - violent in its depiction of the depressing almost Third World nature of some British lives.
On a more jokey level was 'Au Naturel' by Sarah Lucas, which consists of a dirty mattress, on which rests a bucket and two watermelons , and two oranges and a cucumber, supposed to resemble the male and female reproductive organs. I don't know, modern art these days, anyone could do it, etc etc........Post-post modern brilliance or simply a bunch of clever guys fooling around ? Who knows , but it certainly pulls in the crowds.
The garden of Love - part 3
They arrived at the convent a little before nine having breakfasted in Hikkaduwa. A sweet faced nun greeted Shalini warmly and shook hands with Gihan in a matter of fact way and offered to look after him while Shalini was at work. Gihan who had intended to rush back to Hikkaduwa and return just before three was trying to wiggle out of it when Shalini said calmly that that would be lovely. Then she hoisted her bags out of the car and walked swiftly away.
Sister Clare, for that's who she was, looked at him in amused sympathy. "I guess you'd rather have gone to a Rest House for the day," she said.
"But I'm glad you are staying. You can walk about and see our Home and also the wonderful work Shalini is doing here. Has she told you about it at all? No? I thought not. Shalini is very modest and plays down her capabilities. She has done wonders with these children in the short time she has been visiting us. She does it purely on a voluntary basis you know. It is a great help to us."
Gihan decided to be completely honest. "Sister," he said, I have no idea what your Home is, who the children are, or what Shalini does here."
"1 thought so," Sr. Clare nodded, "come I'll tell you."
Two hours later Sister Clare left Gihan to walk on his own and went back to her routine. He was glad. He felt that he, or something, his mind or his heart would burst. In the preceding hours he had learnt, for the first time, about the disabled. He had seen them, beautiful children, children the world would call plain, children who were handicapped through no fault of their own or of anyone else. They were statistics, the million to one chance. Sister said that there were some who were the result of misadventure, the forceps held too tight, the parent who smoked or overindulged in alcohol. He pushed the causes away. What stayed with him was the remembrance of the spirit each child seemed to possess. The sense of friendliness, of love that most of them poured out indiscriminately upon all they encountered on their way through their very special life. Sister Clare had called them Special Children.
"Doesn't it make you angry?" he had asked. "To see them like this?" "At first, yes," Sister said, patting his hand for all the world like his aunt, "But as I worked more and more with them it made me feel privileged. They can teach us such a lot. The best we can do is to make them fit as possible to survive in this world, to look after themselves and to bring the best in each of them." She had shown him their Art Room. He had been amazed at the verve and vibrancy expressed in the pictures on the walls.
She had shown him their Motor Development Room. Here he had seen Shalini on the floor with a dozen children around her. "The wheels of the bus go round and round," sang she and some of the children. As the song progressed Gihan noticed that each verse was accompanied by different action. They rolled their eyes, they swivelled their heads, they waved their arms and they rolled round and round on the floor. This last action seemed a great favourite and some of the children would not stop for a long while. Happy giggles filled the room. Shalini was thoroughly engrossed, Gihan noticed. Although she looked in their direction once or twice,he could not be sure that she had seen him. She was so wrapped up in her work, or play.
Sister had shown him pictures of the small house from which they had begun this work. "One building with no electricity and water which had to be manually pumped. The first Mother Superior had build it up gradually educating herself in the ways and needs of the disabled as she went along." At first the villagers had been disinterested at best and downright hostile at the worst. She had soon had them all eating out of her hand and they had remained supportive up to the present. "We owe her a lot."
"What is the meaning of the name of your Home?" Gihan asked. They had come back to where his vehicle was parked and he spotted the name spelled out in smooth white stones on the driveway. "It means "The Garden of Love," said Sister with a smile. "A lovely name isn't it?" And then she had left him alone with his thoughts free to leave if he wished but he stayed, explored and just soaked in the peacefulness of his surroundings.
Gihan had lunched alone. Sister Clare had been called away to meet an unexpected visitor and Shalini ate with the staff. After lunch Gihan had resumed his rambles and had been drawn to the swimming pool by the sound of splashes laughter and, (what else?), of giggles. Wherever she went there seemed to be giggles he mused. Coming to the pool he paused uncertain whether to stay or go. Shalini was in the pool, two trainees were with her helping a bunch of children in the pool. Shalini was in a lime green one-piece and she looked gorgeous. The trainees were in T-shirt and shorts and the children were in assorted array. She looked up and beckoned him closer. As he watched them play he realised that, as with the music and song, the water helped the children to co-ordinate their movements, and each playful kick and splash was greeted with delight by the teacher and her helpers. His eyes filled with tears. He could not imagine how much he had taken for granted all his life. He felt shallow. The children were trying to catch a ball Shalini was throwing to them. As she raised her arm he noticed a jagged scar along her left shoulder. Now how had she got that?
He turned to leave and saw Sr. Clare coming towards him. "Are you okay?" she asked. He nodded still unable to speak. Sensing his mood Sister silently turned and walked back with him. This was the last class for the day. Shalini would be ready to leave very soon he knew.
"Did Shalini see you there?" she asked when they had almost reached the Convent. She seemed delighted when he answered in the affirmative and added that she had called him closer. "She is very conscious of her scar. She would get into the pool in a T-shirt if she didn't feel it would hamper her movements. She got it in the accident you know. Oh, you don't know. Gihan I think you and Shalini need to talk, catch up on the past and bury a few ghosts."
"I know Sister, will you tell her so?"
"No." Sister looked mischievous. "You shouldn't either. But you could try asking her." And she left him to wonder how she appeared to know so much about him.
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