Students excel at Excellence 25 | Sunday Observer

Students excel at Excellence 25

The winners and Veteran film artiste Ravindra Randeniya
The winners and Veteran film artiste Ravindra Randeniya

Excellence 25, the much awaited photography competition and exhibition was held at the beginning of May at the Lionel Wendt Art Gallery.

Veteran film artiste Ravindra Randeniya was the Chief Guest with internationally recognised photographer Chandrasena Perera joining as the Special Guest of Honour.

The competition was open to all age categories and this time student photographers were able to compete in the schools category.

St. Bridget’s Convent walked away with two gold medals, one bronze and also claimed the Trophy for ‘Best Author’.

Devi Balika Vidyalaya won one gold and one silver and St. Benedict’s College won one silver and one bronze medal.

Ibbagamuwa Central won Silver and D.S. Senanayake College won one Bronze.

Shanaya and Nayantara Perera, two sisters and students of St. Bridget’s Convent, Colombo 7 started Photocause to help the cause of Cancer in 2011. The name has been coined from the concept of using photography for a cause.

Photocause held its maiden exhibition in 2015 at the National Art Gallery. The second one was in 2017 at the J.D.A Perera Gallery. The two Bridgeteens showcased 80 samples of their work along with photographs taken by other invitee school children the exhibition showcased around 120 works. Photocause launched a magazine in 2018.

These two concerned and caring girls are now reaching wider horizons in the cause of Cancer with the production of four videos using digital technology. The videos carry messages for positive change.

Photocause bagged the Plaque of Appreciation in 2017. The Foundation for Civilian Bravery awarded the Gold Medal in the Student category in ‘Civilian Bravery-Social Activity’ to them this year.

For Shanaya and Nayantara photography has been a passion from a very young age and they have been clicking since they were eight and six years old.. They were only 14 and 12 years when they completed the Applied Photographer Course at the Photographic Society of Sri Lanka (PSSL) held at the Lionel Wendt. Their four year old sister named Alisha is already following them around with her own mini camera.

Now aged 17 and 15 years, the sisters had the traumatic experience of a much loved relative contracting cancer, undergoing treatment and finally succumbing to the disease An emotional Shanaya said, “One of our aunts who had even taken care of my mother when she was young died of breast cancer. That was a heartrending period for us but instead of suffering in silence we decided to do something about it,”.

According to her, another reason why the girls wanted to do the project was because taking pictures and selling them online to raise funds for the Sri Lanka Cancer Society was a unique concept.

Armed with Cannon cameras and lenses the duo has traversed the length and breadth of the country from the coastal areas to the mountains and midlands and to jungles and National Parks.

They explained their connectivity to their photographs.

“There is a meditative moment of silence for concentration when I start taking photographs. You begin on a clean slate when you engage in the process. Both of us are not good at drawing. So, this is the art that we can engage in to express ourselves. Each picture embodies a different message,” Shanaya explained.

For Nayanatara photography is almost a form of therapy as it is relaxing in addition to being something she enjoys doing. She sees photography as a sensitive response to others.

“Different people can interpret the same image in two different ways,” she explained.

The girls focus on art and wildlife photography.

Originally, the girls had wanted to help the cause of animal welfare but their experience when their aunt fell sick changed their minds. So, Photocause was born.

The girls also do volunteer work at the ABC School for Special Needs Children in Colombo.

Nayathara says that she loves a picture of a dried up tree which has won her many awards and a picture of a leopard she shot some years back. Shanaya ‘s favourites are a photo of a big black bear climbing a tree and peeking through the branches and which reminds her of Winnie the Pooh and a picture of a leopard captured in a striking pose.

Awake’, a magazine focusing on cancer awareness was also launched Photocause last year and has been distributed among 20 schools.

Father, Mangala Perera, and mother, Gayana Perera, have been very supportive of Photocause. Their latest project, the videos relates the tales of cancer survivors. It spreads the message that cancer does not necessarily mean death.

The sisters hope to take the Photocause exhibition to an international scale by inviting school children from other countries to send in their photographs in the future.

Shanaya and Nayantara are also national award-winning archers and gifted ballet dancers.