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MMCA Sri Lanka showcases work of George Keyt

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The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA Sri Lanka) works with many lenders and private collectors to curate its exhibitions, with the objective of helping the public to learn more about modern and contemporary Sri Lankan art. In 2021, the museum was given access to the George Keyt Foundation Collection (GKF) which is installed in various offices of the John Keells Holdings Group. It was during this research visit that Chief Curator Sharmini Pereira and Curator Sandev Handy found inspiration for the MMCA Sri Lanka’s second exhibition ‘Encounters’, which places four paintings by Keyt at the centre of four displays of art.

Speaking about the partnership Pereira said, “It was a great opportunity to have a guided tour of George Keyt’s works by Chair of the GKF, Mike Antoniasz, and to see physical works by Keyt because there are no paintings by him on public display that are easily accessible seven days a week.” This observation was a key factor that led Pereira and Handy to consider the inclusion of works by Keyt in ‘Encounters’ which opened to the public in February 2022 and is free of charge.

“The GKF was established in 1988 in the lifetime of the artist and was founded on the principles of promoting the works of emerging artists and Sri Lankan art. We are thrilled to work with an organisation such as the MMCA Sri Lanka, that creates knowledge and documents the works of Sri Lankan artists.” said the Chairperson of the George Keyt Foundation Mike Antoniasz.

Speaking about the works displayed Handy commented, “George Keyt is such a well known name in Sri Lanka – yet the public have limited knowledge of his actual works, due to a lack of access to them other than through publications. With the ‘Encounters’ exhibition we want to familiarise audiences with specific paintings by Keyt, choosing to look closely at four of his paintings namely ‘The Friends’ (1982) and ‘Pounding Paddy’ (1952) which were exhibited from 11 February to 22 May as part of ‘Encounters’ Rotation 1, and ‘The Offering (1949) and ‘Kandyan Bride’ (1951), which will be displayed as part of ‘Encounters’ Rotation 3 from 13 November 2022 until 19 March 2023.”

“Each of the four paintings provided Sharmini and I with the starting points for ‘Encounters’. We have created a conversation or ‘encounters’ with other artist’s works,” Sandev further noted. The juxtapositioning of artworks that explore similar subject matter from artists of different generations has been championed by the MMCA Sri Lanka.

One of the ongoing problems faced by the GKF is the costs for looking after their collection, which includes the conservation of the paintings and drawings by Keyt. As part of ‘Encounters’, four paintings by Keyt were successfully conserved. Speaking about the conservation work Udaya Hewawasam from ConsArt, commented “The biggest damage was to the wooden stretchers which were almost totally infected by insects (wood worms) thus providing no mechanical stability. In such cases there is no option other than to replace all the stretchers.”

One of the highlights of the conservation process was the discovery of information at the back of the paintings, including details from past exhibitions, and information on the paintings’ titles. Following standard conservation practises, Udaya confirmed how “After these labels were safely detached, they were de-acidified and then relocated to the back side of the painting in safe acid free sealed transparent cases.”

‘Encounters’ is generously supported by the European Union, Foundation for Arts Initiatives, John Keells Foundation, and the Nations Trust Bank. The MMCA Sri Lanka is an education-led initiative that aims to establish a public museum dedicated to the display, research, collection, and conservation of modern and contemporary art for the benefit and enjoyment of the general public, schools, and tourists.



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Full implementation of 13A: NFF vows to torpedo Ranil’s move, asks Dinesh, Mahinda to disclose their stance

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The National Freedom Front (NFF), a constituent member of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya (NJS), has declared that it would oppose President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s bid to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The patriotic people were ready to defeat such plans, even at the expense of their lives, the party has vowed.

The breakaway JVP faction consists of six MPs, including former minister Wimal Weerawansa. The NJS is contesting the Local Government polls, scheduled for March 09, under the ‘Helicopter’ symbol.

NFF spokesperson, MP Jayantha Samaraweera, on Monday (30), told the media that his party was ready to lead a campaign against the UNP leader’s move to do away with constitutional safeguards meant to ensure Sri Lanka’s unitary status. The Lawmaker addressed the media at the NFF main office, at Pitakotte.

Having declared his intention to fully implement the controversial constitutional amendment at the Thai Pongal celebrations, in Jaffna, on January 15, President Wickremesinghe reiterated his commitment to the Eelam project during the party leaders’ meeting at the Presidential Secretariat, the former State Minister said.

Lawmaker Samaraweera asked Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, and twice President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had flanked President Wickremesinghe, at the party leaders’ meeting, to disclose their stand on 13th Amendment.

The Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya, consisting of NFF, Democratic Left Front, Communist Party, Lanka Samasamaja Pakshaya, Pivuthuru Hela Urumaya, Vijayadharani Jathika Sabhawa, Yuthukama, Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Nidahasa Janatha Sabhawa, Jana Jaya Peramuna, Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya and Nidahas Janatha Peramuna, has yet to disclose its position on this issue.

MP Samaraweera attacked the President, close on the heels of NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa, who is also the Chairman of the Uththara Lanka Sabhagaya (ULS), questioning the legitimacy of the move. Lawmaker Weerawansa addressed this issue at a meeting held at the BMICH, on January 26, to discuss ways and means to thwart the move to privatize the CEB.

The ULS consisting of seven political parties, and groups, is aligned with the NJS.

Referring to the circumstances UNP leader Wickremesinghe re-entered Parliament, through the National List, nearly a year after the last General Election, former Minister Weerawansa emphasized the President didn’t have a mandate to fully implement the 13th Amendment. How could the UNP leader abolish Sri Lanka’s unitary status, having received an opportunity to complete Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s remainder of five-year term, won at the Nov. 2019 Presidential Election.

The MP challenged their erstwhile comrades, in the JVP, to state their position on the 13th Amendment. Alleging that the JVP had been conveniently silent on the issue at hand, MP Samaraweera asked whether the current leadership would take up Wickremesinghe’s challenge.

In addition to Weerawansa and Samaraweera, Yuthukama leader Gevindu Cumaratunga, MP, has declared opposition to the President’s move, at the party leaders’ meeting.

Of the SLPP parliamentary group, retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera is the only MP to publicly oppose Wickremesinghe’s proposal.

Political sources said that the NJS, as a group contesting the forthcoming LG polls, was yet to deliberate this issue and take a stand. They said that consensus was required without further delay as the President’s proposal would be a major issue at the forthcoming election.

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PHU, too, opposes land, police powers to PCs

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A lawyers’ group, aligned with Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU), yesterday (31) said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe couldn’t unilaterally decide on the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Attorneys-at-Law Pasan Gunasekera and Bhupathi Kahathuduwa, in a statement issued, explained why police and land powers, in terms of the controversial amendment, shouldn’t be granted to Provincial Councils. Abolition of current constitutional safeguard would undermine Sri Lanka’s unitary status thereby paved the way for a new conflict.

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Bangladesh FM to deliver LK memorial lecture

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Bangladesh Foreign Minister, Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen, will deliver the Lakshman Kadirgamar memorial lecture at Block 3, Jasmine Hall, BMICH, on February 03, at 6 pm.

The LTTE assassinated the then Foreign Minister, Kadirgamar, on Aug. 12, 2005.

FM Momen will deliver the annual lecture on the invitation of the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies.

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