Sculpting mother nature | Sunday Observer
Trash Art with discarded plastics

Sculpting mother nature

10 January, 2021

Once, Aristotle, a great Greek philosopher said, “In all things of nature, there is something of the marvellous”. Lalith Senanayake, a marvellous sculptor by profession, falling in love with nature is a classic metaphor who bears testimony to the statement of Aristotle. Meanwhile, Lalith’s odyssey of sculpturing is joined and facilitated by his wife Ruwanthi Perera who is a writer by profession.

The couple’s love for nature has often been overwhelming, but to their utter dismay, heaps of litter, plastic in particular, dumped by the passers-by roaming on the beach, make them disheartened. This environmental threatening issue has stimulated Lalith’s passion for professionalism in sculpture into a grater height where he has been able to give a sentimental value to the discarded plastic, scattered along the Uswetakeiyawa beach.

Elephant’s structure

A giant elephant’s structure (12 feet tall and 15 feet width) made by Lalith on the beach of Uswetakeiyawa is decorated with around 1,300 solid materials of discarded plastics cut into different forms where it is also assured that no water remains inside the plastic as it rains and avoids the breeding of dengue mosquitos.

This form of sculpture is known as “Trash Art, Assembly Art or Waste Art”. Once or twice a week, the couple and their two young children get to the Uswetakeiyawa beach where they collect all the plastic materials thrown on the beach and bring them for the decoration of the elephant’s structure. Ruwanthi said that whenever they go out passing the “Hamilton canal”, floating of heaps of plastic is a common sight. But she said that she has little relief.

She said, “I am happy to say that I have seen some people coming with thrown away plastics in their home gardens and trying to decorate the elephant’s structure with them. I feel so proud of such people who don’t discard their thrown away stuff into the water ways”. She said that some schoolchildren are also seen with the discarded plastic taken for the decoration of the elephant’s structure where she said that a message on the importance of the preservation of nature is conveyed, especially among the younger generation.

It takes around 1,000 years for the decomposition of plastic materials, 10-20 years for the decomposition of plastic bags and 450 years for the decomposition of plastic bottles. Researchers are afraid that such plastic bags may never entirely decompose.

A report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with the World Economic Forum projects that around 895 million tons of fish and 937 million tons of plastic will be in the oceans by 2050. In that light, the contribution by Lalith and his family in the safe disposal of discarded plastic with an artistic approach through which a message is conveyed on the significance of the preservation of the natural environment is praiseworthy. There are two other sculptures nearby the Gangaramaya Temple made by Lalith. The sculptures and the portraits by Lalith are also depicted in countries, such as Australia, Canada, England and Dubai.

Butterfly forest

Lalith and Ruwanthi also run a ‘butterfly forest’ in Suriyawewa, assisted by Ven. Kirinde Assaji of the Gangaramaya Temple. The couple said that around 24 varieties of endemic butterflies identified in the island, are endangered as their breeding places; the plants, such as ‘monarakudumbiya’- Vernonia Cinerea and ‘aththora’- Senna Alata (L.) are weeded out by people assuming that the plants are weeds. In the butterfly forest, the couple grows the plants which can facilitate the fertilisation of butterflies. They make sure that the plants grown by them are not added with chemical fertiliser which disrupts biodiversity.

Carlo Ratti said, “The plastic bottle we are throwing away everyday still stays there. And if we show that to people, then we can also promote some behavioural change”. In that light, the effort by Lalith and Ruwanthi has been able to promote a behavioural change which can encourage the people towards the safe disposal of plastic.

This phenomenon can protect the environment while creating green jobs as well. Lalith and Ruwanthi do not fail to extend their gratitude to the American embassy and the Sarvodaya organisation to have assisted them in the plastic project.