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Sunday, 19 January 2003  
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Wings in the wilderness

Pathmanath Samaraweera, one of Sri Lanka's foremost wildlife artists, will hold an exhibition of bird paintings at the National Art Gallery from January, 24-26.

The artist remarks that the works "depict a small selection of the rich and varied bird life of Sri Lanka". but the 70 paintings are an unusually large number for an exhibition of this kind. The finely crafted works span a period of four decades. Several of the older paintings have been retouched.

Alongside a busy professional career, Dr. Samaraweera acquired a reputation not only for his art, but also as a wildlife photographer and conservationist. In the latter role he was for several years an active member of the committee of the wildlife and Nature Protection Society. His photographs have appeared in journals, greeting cards and calendars. Many will remember a classic shot of a three-toed Kingfisher from the 1980s.

The species is among the portraits at the exhibition. This painting has been particularly praised by experts for the difficult task of accurate rendition of the bird's colours.

Two features of the artist are an exceptional skill at conveying the colours of our birds often more vividly beautiful than we suspect, and, secondly, the portrayal of exact poses as captured by his own field sketches and 'working' photographs. He is known as a careful ornithologist who prefers to paint what we saw rather than a standard pose which would often be more popular. He states that he "has been especially inspired by the work and style of G. M. Henry, the author of A guide to the birds of Ceylon and bird illustrator par excellence, to attempt to depict the birds with ornithological accuracy and 'alive'".

An unusual aspect of the exhibition is that some of the original sketches will be shown along with the paintings from them. The artist has made extensive use of sketches he did in the field. In more recent years he has used photographic material to help fill in detail.

The exhibition will be declared open by Thilo Hoffmann, Chairman, Emeritus of the Ceylon Bird Club, a past President of the WNPS and well-known as Sri Lanka's foremost worker for nature conservation.


An exhibition of the life and times of Chitrasena

In celebration of his 82nd birthday, an exhibition of 'The History of Chitrasena and his Dance School' will be held at the National Art Gallery from January 24 - 26 from 10.30 am to 8.00 pm. The Minister of Cultural Affairs and Human Resources, Karunasena Kodituwakku, will inaugurate the exhibition on January 23 at 6.00 pm.

Chitrasena, a virtuoso in the traditional and ritualistic dance forms of Sri Lanka was the first professional artiste and the pioneer of the Sinhala ballet or dance drama. The world of theatre in Sri Lanka is greatly indebted to Chitrasena, not merely for his pioneering work in bringing the dance to the theatre stages, but also for his contributions, both as a dancer and choreographer of Sinhala ballet, in which field he remains more than just "Primus Interpares". Against all odds, including an alienated public as well as a lack of patronage, Chitrasena challenged the mood of the 30s and the 40s and established himself as a dance artiste unparalleled in the dance annals of his country.

The family legacy began with Chitrasena's father Seebert Dias, who was a leading Shakespearean actor, producer, and director of his day. Seebert Dias, seeing Chitrasena's unique potential as an artiste, sent him to India, where he attained the wisdom that inspired him to journey through a variety of styles and disciplines that culminated in his unique conceptions. Kathakali, the Tagorean dance drama in Shanthinikethan, the art of Uday Shankar, are some of the experiences from which Chitrasena imbibed to contribute to the beginning of a dance odyssey in Sri Lanka, which now spans nearly sixty-five years.

Emboldened by the vast potential of the traditional dance, Chitrasena began experimenting with form, sound and colour, steering the dance along uncharted paths. Ironically, the old and the new never appeared to him as two separate or distinct entities.

The new was but an extension of the old. In essence, two contributions of Chitrasena, are undisputed. First, the infusion of the idea of theatre, the stage, the world of audience confrontation and entertainment to the Sinhala dance and secondly, the actual work proceeding from this conception, transferring our folk dances into gems for modern theatre. From this transformation he created a vehicle of artistic expression for the Sinhala dance - the ballet.

The Chitrasena Dance Company of Sri Lanka has toured extensively in countries of East and West Europe, the United States, the former USSR, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Bangladesh and Middle East. The extensive repertoire of the company, consisting of the national dances and rhythms of Sri Lanka as well as innumerable ballets based on mythological and localised themes, have received rave reviews from local and international art critics.

The Chitrasena School of Dance was the first School of Dance to be established in the capital city of Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1944. Its pioneering work led to a revival and resurgence of the indigenous art forms of this country that had declined during the nearly 500 years of colonial rule. Not only was the School a repository of the finest in the traditional mould, it succeeded in creating a new and dynamic genre by adapting the traditional dances of Sri Lanka for the modern stage without in any way degrading the intrinsic artistry of the age old styles and techniques.

However, since the school was forced to move from its original premises in 1982, there has been no permanent centre for it and Chitrasena, Vajira and their staff of teachers have been forced to move from one rented space to another in order to continue their life's work.

This exhibition will also serve as the starting point to focus on the great need to raise funds for the establishment of a new Chitrasena Kalayathanaya on a land that was granted to the Chitrasena-Vajira Dance Foundation by President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.

Among these events is a felicitation of Dr. Chitrasena by Dr. Sunil Kothari, the eminent Indian dance critic, chaired by Mr. Bandula Jayawardena.

Among the other speakers at the felicitation will be Professor Carlo Fonseka and Dr. Sunil Ariyaratne. A Kohomba Kankariya will also be conducted at the site provided for the new Chitrasena Kalayathanaya in order to bless it on February 22.


'Udagira' on January 20

A painter's brush will reveal the story of Udagira. Tilak Kalu Liyanage will hold an exhibition at the Lionel Art Gallery from January 20-22. With these paintings the artist hopes to start a picture gallery. Nature's beauty could be witnessed through the website "". A song composed by this young artist based on the heritage of Sri Lanka, sung by Priyanka and Disna will also be released on the same day.


Moons among the Sinhalese

by J. B. Disanayaka

The Sinhalese have many words to refer to the moon. One of the oldest is Chandra which their ancestors brought from India where they spoke some form of Vedic dialect. In the Buddha's speech, it is referred to as chando. The word chandra occurs most frequently in personal names either as the first or the second element of a compound noun. All these names have a meaning referring to the moon.

For example, Chandra-da:sa means the 'Servant of the Moon', Chandra-jo:ti the 'Light of the Moon' and Chandra-ratna the 'Jewel of the Moon'. Similarly 'He:ma-chandra' means the 'Golden Moon', and Pre:ma-chandra means the 'Moon of Love'. The name Sarath-chandra which is also written as 'Sarachchandra' denotes the moon that comes in the Indian season of Sarath which forms a part of English Spring. Some names that have 'chandra' as its first element include the following:

Chandra-da:sa Chandra-de:va

Chandra-gupta Chandra-ji:va

Chandra-jo:ti Chandra-ki:rti

Chandra-Kuma:ra Chandra-la:l

Chandra-latha: Chandra-le:kha

Chandra-pa:la Chandra-ratna

Chandra-siri Chandra-se:na

Chandra-se:kara Chandra-so:ma

Chandra-tilaka Chandra-vansa

Names that have chandra as its second element are rare:

Haris-chandra He:ma-chandra

Jagath-chandra Lanka:chandra

Pre:ma-chandra Sarath-chandra

Satis-chandra Wimala-chandra

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