Beautiful Paintings by Beautiful Minds
Uniting the Country with Public Space Art
Artists of all ethnicities gather to create public space art to promote reconciliation
A collective of artists are gathered to paint empty walls in and around Kandy town. Mobilized by a Facebook message, they come with no racial or religious bias. Instead, they are united in their task to beautify Kandy.
Udara Chaturaka, a past student of D.S. Senanayake College (Kandy) initiated a plan to paint walls around Kandy town. He then circulated a call to action on Facebook inviting artists to participate in the wall painting initiative around Kandy. He received numerous responses to his FB post and followed it up with a second, inviting those who responded to meet near Vidyartha Primary School.
The response from the young men and women of Kandy was encouraging. The artists were free to conceptualize and paint while all their needs from equipment to paint and refreshments were provided by the townspeople. Some even brought along tarpaulin to protect the painters in case of rain.
“Young people were mobilized via Facebook and painted public spaces. Many people commented on my post to public space paintings in Kandy. Over 700 joined the initiative. We selected Vidyartha, Dharmaraja, St. Anthony’s Girls’ Colleges and subways near Nittawela and Kandy clock tower. We created paintings in line with the traditional art of the Kandy era,” said Udara.
“All of us are Sri Lankans. This is our country. Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim people must unite to make this country beautiful. We cannot do it by making the roads and walls alone beautiful. Our minds must be beautiful too. A group of people with beautiful minds have gathered here” said Ven. Pankolagolle Pemananda Thero of Dharmadutha Center of Galewela.
“This work started last Sunday when we all met for the first time. We must unite irrespective of our race or religion to do this work. I am a professional artist engaged in temple and other paintings. We happily render our services to society as volunteers. This was initiated by Udara. He coordinated the logistics and the team. Now, we have forgotten our traditional racial, religious and caste differences. A catholic nun gave us tea today. Many Tamil children are here. A Muslim woman is painting next to Buddhist monks,. The differences have vanished and we are united.” said one of the volunteer artists.
Veteran artist Charles Dayananda had this to say: “We have a clever and creative youth. Their compositions are innovative. The only shortcoming I see is race and religion are highlighted in the paintings in some places. Some paintings promote a war mentality. Why do we need paintings on the war between King Dutugemunu and Elara? Instead of it, we could have painted the battle of Gannoruwa. If one tries to express anti-Tamil sentiments via the Dutugemunu-Elara fight, we cannot approve it. It is good to make paintings that can be appreciated by people of all communities in public places. We must provide guidance to these energetic young ones. This is a universal language. Art is not limited to one language or race. We must understand this.”
The youth have united to push the country to an unprecedented level. While millions of rupees are spent in discussions, seminars and workshops on ethnic and religious reconciliation, youth have identified that it cannot be done with money but can be done by uniting hearts. Pankolagolle Pemananda Thero and Asma Mariyam paint together. This unity is more beautiful than the painting itself. If we can keep this up in the future, we may be able to make these paintings more permanent.