Another Madame Tussaud in Sri Lanka | Sunday Observer

Another Madame Tussaud in Sri Lanka

Sculpting in wax is a painstaking process. Much research is done on the subject to be sculpted and every minute detail is meticulously recorded. This includes the shape of the iris in the eye, tiny hairs on the back of the hand, how the hair lies and falls on the head and many other details

Sri Lanka’s first wax works museum will be opened at a prime location in Colombo in May 2020. The dynamic people behind it are a father and son duo of sculptors, Athula and Mahima Herath. Mahima Herath (26) hails from the cool climes of Gampola in the central Sri Lankan hills and has made a name for himself as a creative and innovative artist. He is a waxworks artist or in other words a sculptor in wax. Mahima has several unveilings and exhibitions to his credit. At present, Mahima is not too involved in his artistic pursuit as he will be sitting for his final exams for a Bsc in Architecture at the University of Moratuwa. However, he is raring to get his hands on wax the moment the ink dries on his final exam paper.

It was Mahima’s appachchi (dad) who has inspired and mentored him in the art of wax sculpting. Athula Herath retired as an officer in the Royal Oman Air Force and returned home to Gampola. On one of his frequent forays to the ancient royal capital Kandy, he discovered a catalogue for Madame Tussaud’s waxworks gallery in London. The lifelike pictures captivated his artistic soul and was the catalyst to his becoming a master in the creation of wax figures.

As none of the necessary material was available in Sri Lanka he imported these from Austaralia at a high cost but they did not really suit the purpose and he subsequently started importing from the UK. For about five years he experimented with different materials and figures to perfect the art of creating figures in wax.

When his appac hchi first delved into sculpting with wax Mahima was around ten years old and he was a fascinated observer and a little helper to the elder Herath. And the smart little boy quickly picked up the rudiments of sculpting in wax.

The first life like wax figure made by the duo was a statue of well known actor Mahendra Perera. Dressed in a checked shirt and denims Mahendra’s smiling facial expression has been captured to a by them.

Father and son held their first exhibition at the Colombo Art Gallery a few years ago and it was well received. Their first official unveiling Sadisi Prathiru was held at the Namel and Malini Punch Theatre in Borella. The sculptures were of Prof. Carlo Fonseka and singer Sunil Edirisinghe.

They held a three day exhibition named Raja Dekma where they exhibited historical figures sculpted by them including king Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe and the tragic Ehelepola Kumarihamy.

Sculpting in wax is a painstaking process. Much research is done on the subject to be sculpted and every minute detail is meticulously recorded.

This includes the shape of the iris in the eye, tiny hairs on the back of the hand, how the hair lies and falls on the head and many other details.

The moving spirit and rock behind the father and son is wife and mother Buddhi Dissanayake. In addition to his painting and sculpting Mahima was always experimenting and innovating in his spare time. At the tender age of eleven he invented a tow wheel for motorcycles – it could be kept in the tool box and taken out when necessary to encase the punctured tyre and then pushing the motorbike would be so much easier and also it would help to minimise damage to the tyre.

He got the patent for it when he was 12 years old studying in Grade 7 at his alma mater, Ranabima Royal College, Kandy. He is the youngest ever to get a patent in Sri Lanka. He has other patents to his credit too.

This invention gave him the opportunity go with a team of young inventors to New Delhi, India to represent Sri Lanka. Thirty five countries participated and Mahima’s tow wheel won first place and was highly acclaimed. Mahima was only 12 years old!

A team of high ranking officials from Bajaj met him and offered to buy or collaborate with him to manufacture the tow wheel. He was also given media coverage. Mahima was nonplussed and did not know what to say as he was young and inexperienced. So, he said no. He was also motivated by the fact that he did not want to give an invention created in Sri Lanka to a foreign country.

At this time, Mahima held his first solo art exhibition at the E.L. Senanyake Library, Kandy. The chief guest was the then Governor of the Central Province, Monty Gopallawa.

This gave him the fillip to become more and more involved with art and sculpting. He also participated in an art exhibition at the Alliance Francaise in Kandy. Here, an award was created just for him – the ‘Most Creative Painter’ and he was also offered a scholarship to France.

However, as he was about to sit for his O/Level exam his parents did not encourage him to take it up. After doing his A’s in the maths stream Mahima gained entry to the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Moratuwa. Now, he is just a few weeks away from sitting his final exams.

Mahima was selected as a recipient for a scholarship awarded by the Munster School of Architecture.

This experience certainly broadened his horizons in every way and he gave his German friends a unique experience. He organised a Sinhala and Hindu New Year celebration for them. As many necessary items were unavailable, he had to substitute and improvise. For instance, for the Kana Mutti (breaking a clay pot) competition no clay pots were available.

Mahima and his friends combed Munster for clay pots and being unsuccessful hit upon the idea of using ceramic containers.

Mahima handles the business and marketing for their sculptures. They have many commercial clients requesting their work.

Right now, the two Herath’s are busy with the unveiling of the Davuldena Sri Gnanissara Thera’s statue under state patronage in Colombo.

Mahima is also trained in Cinematography at the Wide Angle Academy. He presented a program, Art Beat on Sirasa TV for two years.

Many foreign musems have been visited by Mahima to learn about wax sculpting. They include Madame Tussaud’s in London and Bangkok.

A simple young man, Mahima has a very down to earth outlook on life. He also has the intelligence, creativity, strength and grit to achieve his goals. We wish him every success in his dual careers, those of an architect and an artist and sculptor.