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15th November 1998

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Kala Korner By Dee Cee

Meet Joe Abeywickrema, the writer

We all know Joe Abeywickrema, the actor-that superb character actor. But we don't know much about Joe Abeywickrema, the writer.

Twenty six years ago, Joe wrote his first novel. Titled Maha Bambata Muhunu Dekai, it's a story about the tender love of a young man and a young woman in the village. The second edition of the book comes out of press this week.

In his maiden effort, Joe has attempted to relate a story based on the social framework that existed in the village he was born in, before the second World War.

"The old village is no more. It has undergone a big change. Most of the old traditions have broken down."

"Yet traces of mutual goodwill and human affection still exist thanks to these fine qualities being embedded in the minds of the simple villager for generations," Joe says.

Joe has caught the joys and tears of the young couple's romance in Maha Bambata Muhunu Dekai, which comes out as a Dayawansa Jayakody publication.Joe has always loved the village. Born and bred in Lellopitiya off Ratnapura, his close ties with the village have helped to turn out some fine performances on celluloid. Take his role as Abilin in Mahagama Sekara's Tung Mang Handiya (1970). It was a classic portrayal of a simple, innocent villager. Sekara, who had been so impressed with Joe's performance, commented that his deep understanding and close relationship with the village made him live in that role. Joe's novel proves this further, Sekara said.

Few will forget his first major role in films such as Saraiya, the betel seller in Tissa Liyanasuriya's Saravita (1965) which made him the Best Actor in the Sarasaviya Film Festival. The sound of the tinkles in his giraya still ring a bell in our ears. Joe's toll of 16 awards for his character acting tells the tale.

Pick of the evening

The pick of Pradeepanjali III featuring the young maestro on the sitar Pradeep Ratnayake, was Hemapala Perera, the visually handicapped flautist.

He played so beautifully in Pradeep's creation of Jazz Oriental, a modern jazz composition with sitar, flute, bass guitar (Alston Joachim) and acoustic drums (Rifaee Thowfeek).

Pradeep's innovation 'Enchantment' was described as a "journey through the various rasa (moods) of oriental aesthetics" and featured voices and instruments blending in three movements. While appreciating Pradeep's attempt at creating something new for each concert, some of us found it rather repetitious making it drag a little too long.

East meets West

On December 10, 1967, history was created in the music world when two 'greats', Ravi Shankar and Yehudi Menuhin played the Rag Piloo before an august world audience at the United Nations in New York. It was Human Rights day. It was a unique event. Menuhin described it as an event breaking fresh ground. The recorded version of the concert was voted the Classical Record Performance of the Year by the American National Academy of Recording.

Pradeep played this famous duet with Joseph de Saram on the violin at Pradeepanjali III at the Lionel Wendt claiming this was the first time it was being played in Sri Lanka.

Touch of tradition

A magul poruwa made out of cane. Would you believe? Does it sound heretical? You should see it to believe. That's because we are used to seeing the poruwa done in traditional design at every wedding.

The cane magul poruwa was on display at the BMICH recently. Those who visited the National Handicrafts Exhibition couldn't miss it. It was so striking and out of the ordinary. It was simple and elegant with even the punkalas turned out in cane.

Chaminda Kumara Wijesinghe from distant Manampitiya close to Dimbulagala was the creator of this attractive piece. It was competing at the national competition having got selected at district level. He would be obviously pleased because the hard work he had put in to turn out something most unusual, turned out to be the best. It won the first place in the Bamboo & Cane section.

High quality products - 405 items in all, were on display at this annual exhibition organised by the National Crafts Council.

Winning topmost place among the selected items was an intricately carved brass table lamp - the creation of Gamini Gunasinghe from Medahinnawatte, Madawala. He won two Presidential Awards- one for being the best in all sections (along with a cash prize of Rs 25,000) and the other for being the best in the Brassware section (plus a cash prize of Rs 20,000).

The first and second runners-up too won Presidential Awards and cash prizes of Rs 20,000 and Rs 15,000 respectively. K Sisira Kumara from Rawatawatta, the first runner-up's prize winning entry was a carved wooden tray which had won the first place in the woodcrafts section. A novel door curtain in traditional Dumbara style designed by P W G Wimalasiri from Menikhinna won the third place. It was an innovative piece which stood out from the normal Dumbara wall hangings. It was priced at Rs 2,850.

The Crafts Council believes that the all-island exhibition helps to highlight the importance of maintaining our national identity and culture in the local handicrafts while promoting craftsmen to turn out high quality products by getting them to compete among themselves. The exhibition is also a show window for buyers and gives an opportunity for buyers and sellers to meet.

D C Ranatunga

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