Category Archives: pilgrimages

From Mountain Village to Neurologist in Melbourne

Tissa Wijeratne, … … where the title is “The Journey of One Neurologist from Sri Lanka to Melbourne”

Born and raised in what I describe as “the jungle,” my life started in one of the remotest parts of Sri Lanka: a village called Kirioruwa-Bandarawela in the central mountainous area. Electricity, hot water, television, and telephone were all miles away from us at the time. I fondly recall days spent reading in the shade of a tree in the rice fields that surrounded my family home — the place where sky and earth met, almost kissing each other daily. The mountains were covered with a layer of lush tea bushes. Our home sat on the top of one of these mountains.

 Tissa Wijeratne, MD (right), with one of his mentors from his time as a student in Sri Lanka. Continue reading

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Galle Face Hotel in Australian Frontlines after Facelift

Phil Hawkes, in The Australian, 19 April 2017,  with the titleGalle Face Hotel gracious reminder of foregone era”

It’s 1982 and I’m in Colombo, Sri Lanka, at a travel conference. We rock up at the portico of the legendary Galle Face Hotel in a decrepit 10-seat minibus that the organisers managed to provide for 12 delegates. Hardly the coolest of ways to arrive at this heritage-listed reminder of British colonial days. Where’s the fleet of vintage Rollers? But there’s Kuttan the doorman, splendid in his unique white uniform and sporting his trademark handlebar moustache, welcoming us as if we’re royalty. He is used to greeting guests such as Lord Louis Mountbatten, Princess Elizabeth, Jawaharlal Nehru and other famous people, but his welcome to us is just the same. Feeling like celebrities, we forget about the minibus. Kuttan was a recognisable character at the Galle Face Hotel for 72 years, surely a world record. He died in 2014 at age 94, much honoured by colleagues and those guests whose lives he touched. Now his tradition is carried on by PB Rathnayaka, whose tenure is a mere 51 years with another “rich and famous” list to recall, including Fidel Castro and Indira Gandhi, and more than a few Australian cricketers.

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Traditional Drum Making In Sri Lanka: Beats down the Ages

David Blacker, courtesy of SERENDIB, December Issue 2016 …

drums On display (L-R) a Tabla, Hand Rabana, Bummadiya, Thammetama, and Geta Bera

The hands and fingers seemed to work to an inner beat, to a pulse, only the drum-maker himself could hear. As wood was smoothed, leather cords tightened, and cowhide stretched, they would be periodically tested, plucked, tapped, thrummed by the fingers, searching for a quality defined by sound. Ironically, in the gloom of the small stall that doubled as a workshop, there was no music whatsoever; not even a transistor radio. The only sounds were those of the tools, the muted conversation, underlined by the tapping.Nimal Wickramasiri is an artist. And his art is the beat. Nimal is not a musician, but the drums he makes are sought after by musicians all over Sri Lanka. Now middle-aged, Nimal has been making drums all his life. His father, awarded by three Presidents, had done the same, as had his grandfather, and for generations before, now lost in the rhythm of time. Nimal’s son, Kasun, is a skilled drum-maker in his own right. The beat in this family’s blood shows no sign of drying up.

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Tilak Samarawickrema’s 50 years of Art

Piero Trionfera, the Italian architect reflects on Tilak Samarawickrema’s 50-year retrospective held last month, and speaks of being “Immersed in Tilak’s work” .. .. Sunday Times, 16 October 2016

When a wall becomes a work of art

I met Tilak about a year ago, at a celebration for Bawa, together with other Sri Lankan architects. I was perhaps the only foreign architect there.We started to chat and I rediscovered some of my roots: there is not a large age difference between us, and in the 70’s he lived in Rome, my city. It was inevitable that we would have similar memories of when Avant-Garde Italian design and architecture had reached a level of international standing, especially in Milan, a hot bed of intellectuals and emancipated industrialists, where Tilak had maintained close relations and interests.

So it was impossible for me not to be present at his 50-year retrospective as an artist, which he himself curated. It isn’t so much of a retrospective but a projection of a futuristic perspective.The choice of venue, the Lionel Wendt Art Gallery, implies a clear desire in Tilak to place himself in a modern, international niche, and this venue was absolutely perfect for his works and thoughts.

Right from the preview of the exhibition, the hall is full of interested and interesting people and I find myself immersed in his world. I am ready to admire his films, sculptures and drawings.

The welcome I receive at the entrance, the gallery, the people, the “Mythical Bird” opposite me, all bring up in me, a sensation of tranquil familiarity. Then, I reflect and think, but of course, I am at an international-style exhibition, a type I hadn’t seen for a while in Sri Lanka.To the left, an audience sits admiring and commenting on the animated films of timeless quality as well as a series of photos of the artist in his youth. I am also enthralled by the backgrounds of the photos (I am biased, sorry). Besides being a historic testimony of his formative years, they are insights into “my” Rome.

I wander around the exhibition, amongst intellectuals, people of all kinds, elegant and middle-aged as well as sporty youngsters, locals and westerners. It is wonderful that at an art exhibition you can meet all sorts of people with different backgrounds and this is a tangible indication that the exhibition was a success. Continue reading

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Anagārika Dharmapāla on the World Stage: Pictorial

15 Dharmapāla at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, 1893, with Swami Vivekānanda on his left

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Reading Amunugama’s Study of Anagārika Dharmapala in LION’S ROAR

Tissa Devendra in The Island, 31 August 2016, where the title reads “

I quailed when asked to review Sarath Amunugama’s 700-odd page work on Anagarika Dharmapala’s life and times. I wondered what else was there to write about this colossus who strode across the Buddhist scene in the ‘Ceylon’ of little more than a century ago. So many of his statues adorn our towns and so numerous are the books, pamphlets, learned articles, both in English and Sinhala, published in Sri Lanka, India, Britain and America that there seemed little new to say. But Sarath Amunugama — administrator, politician, art lover and, above all, a meticulous scholar — has overcome my reluctance with his comprehensive, yet eminently readable, study of the Anagarika’s life and times, aptly titled The Lion’s Roar- a singularly apt description of the reverberations that the Anagarika caused in Colonial Ceylon and India.

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Magical Vignettes on the Sri Lankan Unknowns from an Intrepid Adventurer

Stefan d’Silva’s Isle of Mystique- Isle of Legend – Glimpsing Eclipsed Sri Lanka is an apt title for a publication that illustrates, in vivid colour images and informative text, the wonder of Sri Lanka. The book explores places far from the routine travel agenda of most people. Mysterious rock paintings only recently discovered, cave inscriptions, rock art, old British military fortifications, remote lifestyles of nautical communities, the lost wealth of the Mannar Pearl Banks, the theft of the last Sinhala King’s crown and legends of lost races – and more, are all a part of this 247 page publication with revealing historical facts.

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