Sunday at the Kala Pola

By Dhananjani Silva, Pix by Sanka Vidanagama

The shady sidewalks of Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha were packed with people. Among those who hit the street were serious art lovers who came to mingle with talented local painters and sculptors, to study and admire their works and perhaps pick up a few. For others, it was a fun outing on a bright Sunday morning.

The annual Kala Pola, organised by the George Keyt Foundation in collaboration with John Keells Holding held for the18th consecutive year last Sunday was as enjoyable as always, showcasing the skills of nearly 300 Sri Lankan artists who displayed their creative prowess in the form of paintings, handicrafts, sculpture etc.

Aloka Bandara and Chaminda Madusanka’s stall attracted many visitors. Displayed was a spectacular invention by Aloka, a lantern he had invented inspired by the historical Eth Pahana (lantern of tusker) from the Dedigama Kotavehera.

To replace the tusker on top, Aloka had a lion. “You have to fill the abdomen of the lion with oil before lighting the lamp,” he explained adding that he had a good response from visitors.

Chaminda and Aloka who have followed external Arts Degree courses at Bataleeya Anuro Institute, said Kala Pola gives good exposure to young artists from rural areas like them who do not otherwise have much opportunities to show their work.

Brindley Jayatunga was displaying black and white sketches, and executing quick pastel portraits of the visitors. Brindley who has participated in the event 15 times before says he has done many portraits of children who visited Kala Pola. However, the artist finds elderly people with grey hair and lines on their faces more interesting subjects. “I enjoy drawing live rather than drawing from a photo because you can see the real depth in a person,” he says.

“This is an event for people to come and spend their leisure; for serious art lovers to meet talented painters; and especially for student artists it is a good opportunity to learn,” he says. The wood burning art of Lakshman Dissanayake done using special techniques and methods with no paint used, wooden statues and human figures done by B. Wimalaratne were some of the eye-catching wooden creations at this year’s Kala Pola.

Visiting from the UK, Carol Biswas said she was simply fascinated by what she saw. “In London you get events like this on the streets very often. But there I have not seen such a variety of arts and crafts like here. I just started walking around and so far I have come across so many different kinds of interesting paintings. I would recommend anyone to come and see this event; whether you are buying anything or not it is such a good experience,” Carol said.

Most of the artists were unanimous that Kala Pola provided a great opportunity for them to take their talents to a broader audience. An artist who has been involved in doing artwork for cut outs for 42 years but who was compelled to switch to doing paintings with the introduction of digital printing into the market says events such as Kala Pola should be held more often so as to lend a hand to local artists like him.

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