Kala Pola - 24th edition of Sri Lanka’s open-air art fair: Creativity in a riot of colour | Sunday Observer

Kala Pola - 24th edition of Sri Lanka’s open-air art fair: Creativity in a riot of colour

29 January, 2017
An eye catching painting

The sidewalks of Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, Colombo 7 was transformed into a celebration of art and ‘a riot of colour!’ last Sunday, 22 January, when ‘Kala Pola’(Art market) made a perfect day even better for the art lovers.

Presented by the George Keyt Foundation in association with the John Keells Group, it was the 24th edition of Sri Lanka’s open-air art fair where art lovers flocked into the venue, along with hundreds of artists from around the country who came to showcase their paintings and sculptures.

Kala Pola has been a different kind of market that sells art portraying wildlife, nature, human, animal paintings and sculptures. Over the past 24 years it has been a major cultural and tourist attraction and is today a not-to-be-missed event in Colombo’s annual cultural calendar where the whole family can and enjoy art. Kids too enjoyed drawing and learning sculpture at the Kids Art Corner sponsored by Elephant House. Teachers from Cora Abraham Art school were also present to assist the children discover their creative talents.

Speaking to the artists in the stall and getting to know about their talents was really interesting. There were different types of artists. Some of them were disabled and others had unique features. Jagath K.G. Punchihewa, a well-known and former artist at the Sunday Observer editorial, was one of the senior exhibitors, having actively participated in the Kala Pola for over 23 years.

Punchihewa’s paintings were of a general nature. “I have used water colours for my paintings and all are funny cartoons in traditional dress. All my cartoons have some good advice for life and society. It has some meaning for life as well. All of them are painted in traditional dress. Many people buy my paintings. I usually make a good profit at the Kala Pola and am very happy about it. I have sold seven paintings up to now”, he said.

Punchihewa further said, that there are two main sizes in his paintings, one is file size and the other is postcard size. “Many people buy the postcard size ones. People are happy to see my paintings. They laugh heartily, as everything is jovial and funny. There are many artists in Sri Lanka now, and they participate in the Kala Pola. There are sales even after 7.30 p.m. People come with torches to buy them. I am planning to draw and paint Sri Lankan politicians and world famous people’s caricatures in the future. The captions describe the cartoon in a funny way. The Sunday Observer staff has been helping me from early days and I am thankful to them. People from a cross section of society and foreigners purchase my paintings. I am thankful to the George Keyt Foundation for the opportunity they give us every year to showcase our talents,” he said.

Priyantha Manoj, an arts graduate from the University of Kelaniya and Arts teacher at Bulathkohupitiya School said, “My art is very simple. I use old vehicle parts for my creativity. I assemble parts and do stone art as well. The George Keyt Foundation gives an opportunity for artists to participate in a first come first served basis at the Kala Pola. I am unlucky this year because I did not get a stall at Kala Pola, so today I am selling my paintings outside. It would be really great if they could add more artists in future, so that all of us get an equal opportunity. In Sri Lanka, artists have very little opportunity to portray our talents. I suggest, if the George Keyt Foundation could award certificates for participants it would be really valuable. Despite some shortcomings for the artists to hang their paintings, I must say that the George Keyt Foundation is doing a great job.”

From among the artists who participated at the Pola, the youngest was W. P. Thisaru Prabashwara from Veyangoda. He is 16 years old and was really talented. Many people were drawn to his works and purchased his paintings. He said, “I use pen, pencil and acrylic paint for my work. I really enjoy painting and my ambition is to become a great artist in Sri Lanka, one day. I work hard to achieve my dream. I feel happy when people appreciate my work. I hope my dream becomes a reality one day.”

Launched in 1993, the ‘Kala Pola’ drew inspiration from the open air summer art fairs in European capitals, such as, the legendary Montmartre in Paris. The deep rooted rationale for its existence goes beyond the mere search for fascinating colour, exuberance and camaraderie.

‘Kala Pola’ is a key platform for artists and sculptors to launch and develop their careers, build a steady clientele and thereby a viable source of income. It facilitates the exchange of ideas among artists for collective growth in style and genres. Over the years, it has also become a reputed means of popularising the appreciation and patronising of visual art by the public.

In the recent past,‘Kala Pola’ has featured over 300 artists and sculptors from various parts of Sri Lanka. They had been marketing their creations to an ever growing and appreciative Sri Lankan, expatriate and foreign clientele. It is in a fun-filled atmosphere of music and camaraderie. Many artists have gone on to become successful professionals because of ‘Kala Pola’ with some proceeding to launch careers in the international arena.

The official ceremony took place at 5.00 p.m and the Chief Guest was High Commissioner of Australia to Sri Lanka, Bryce Hutchesson with representatives from the George Keyt Foundation and John Keells Group. The afternoon’s entertainment was provided by The Music Project, Music Matters Collective and Ravibandhu Vidyapathy Drummers which kept the crowd upbeat till Kala Pola concluded at 9.00 p.m.

Pix: Imran Mohammed