Over 22,000 visitors converged on Colombo on Sunday, 22 January 2017 as the 24th edition of Sri Lanka’s annual open-air art fair ‘Kala Pola transformed the sidewalks of Ananda Coomawaswamy Mawatha into a kaleidoscope of colour with over 327 artists from different parts of Sri Lanka showcasing their inherent creativity from dawn to dusk.
Sales were brisk as more than Rs. 12 million changed hands in this annual art fair organised jointly by The George Keyt Foundation and the John Keells Group. The variety on display was amazing and ranged from canvasses, mixed media and portraits to sketches, intricate sculptures and abstract art.
Gracing the official ceremony as Chief Guest was the Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Bryce Hutchesson. Also present were the Chairman and Trustees of The George Keyt Foundation and Directors and senior management of John Keells Holdings PLC.
Addressing the gathering, the High Commissioner said, “It is a great honour for me to be here at the famous Kala Pola, which has been running since 1993 and has grown in size and prestige over the years … I’m not alone in thinking that Sri Lanka has a rich cultural heritage and an explosion of creativity and I must say, I know many people at the Australian High Commission, both past and present, who can point proudly at artworks bought at this event throughout the years”. Deputy Chairman of The George Keyt Foundation, Nihal Rodrigo, who delivered the welcome address said, “The first Kala Pola in Colombo which Keyt himself witnessed, was held in 1993, with a modest participation of 35 artists. The number of artists has, since then, grown ten-fold. It is a tribute to John Keells Holdings that Kala Pola has continued to grow and flourish, establishing itself as the most successful, popular and unrivalled artistic event of the year in Colombo. It has helped to provide livelihood means to many talented artists to become professionals, with some going on to make a name for themselves in the global arena”.
Head of CSR, John Keells Holdings PLC, Nadija Tambiah said, “This year’s Kala Pola had the largest number of artists we have ever accommodated in a single day - 327 registered artists! - truly highlighting the value of such an event for our artists. In fact, we were proud to see the sale of paintings and sculptures in the Rs. 500,000 to Rs. 1 million range. As the sponsors and organisers of Kala Pola for 23 years, we would like to acknowledge the active support of the media and public to the continued success of Kala Pola and our vision of providing a platform for talented painters and sculptors to market their art, enabling not only the promotion of their careers but also an appreciation and patronage of visual arts among the public”.
Kala Pola 2017 also included a Children’s Art Corner organised by the John Keells Group subsidiary, Ceylon Cold Stores PLC, attracting 145 child artists who revelled in drawing and painting as well as experimenting with clay work and were rewarded with a certificate and refreshments courtesy of Elephant House and art equipment sponsored by Sakura Agency. This year too, the child artists were aided by teachers of the Cora Abraham Art School.
The entertainment segment included children’s performances in the afternoon from The Music Project, which uses music as the link language to build orchestral communities in the North and South, as well as students of the Music Matters Collective School. The evening segment of Kala Pola, included lively performances by the acclaimed Ravibandhu Vidyapathi Drum Ensemble and Music Matters Collective with their innovative blend of jazz and experimental fusion.
Kala Pola 2017 was supported by a dedicated team of 105 staff volunteers from across the John Keells Group. Repeat volunteer, Maheshi Wimalagoonaratne said, “Kala Pola is one of the volunteering initiatives I really look forward to. I’ve always had an interest in art and it’s a nice way to get to know the artists and their stories as well as meet other volunteers from the John Keells Group.
John Keells volunteers also helped Kala Pola artists to register on www.srilankanartgallery.com, Sri Lanka’s first and only corporate digital art gallery. The website which is designed, maintained and hosted by the John Keells Foundation - the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) entity of the John Keells
Group - under its focus area of Arts and Culture, enables Sri Lankan artists to showcase and market their work throughout the year to local and foreign buyers.
Kala Pola takes place in January each year and artists interested in participating can contact The George Keyt Foundation or John Keells Foundation.