By Rochelle Palipane Gunaratne
My Sunday was not spent languishing at home but exploring the creative journey of a number of amazing individuals who had taken that initial step to create something unique and market it to the masses despite umpteenth challenges. A visit to CCC with its weekend bazaars was something out of a story book. While my main aim was to speak to some of the vendors, I could not stop myself from purchasing the beautiful trinkets on display.
Sleep in perfect peace
My first stop was at a colourful display of bed linen and towels set up by Dharika, a young mother who had tapped into her love for stitching and developed a brand which is aptly called, ‘Sweet Dreams’. Through her SME which started a few years ago, she has touched the hearts of many children and adults too as her bed spreads are made to order with a collection of ready-made items made out of child-friendly material and Egyptian cotton.
Echoes of a rich tradition
Strolling ahead I saw the most exquisite ‘beeralu’ designs, which stopped me in my tracks. Passed down by the Portuguese settlers and mastered by the southerners, beeralu weaving is a craft which is traditionally passed from mother to daughter. Through her enterprising efforts, Priyani who hails from Matara followed in her mother’s footsteps has created many job opportunities for a number of ladies in her vicinity. While the shadow work is done by the younger ones, the Beeralu lace work is by often done by the older generation. Buying these lace works is a benevolent effort as it feeds many families. “To weave one yard takes about a day,” said she to my amazement.
Pathma from Gampaha, a recipient of the 2017 ‘Women Entrepreneur of the Year’ award in the Micro category was another fascinating lady who started learning the art of weaving fifteen years ago when her sons were young. Subsequently, she had started producing a few items but her career had taken wing due to her eldest son’s (who graduated as a Software Engineer) encouragement and motivation. Five years ago she had opened a stall at the Good Market and came to Colombo with trepidation but her son insisted that she continue. “I want my journey to inspire other women to venture out on their and make use of their talents.”
Nerush started designing her own clothes because she did not want to look like her daughter’s elder sister. “Eventually my daughter, who identified the demand for these clothes publicized it on social media. Her brand is coined from her husband’s and children’s initials.
Tantalize your taste-buds
While browsing through the items my children stumbled upon a stall displaying 100% natural and vegan pickles, spreads and sauces and they were hooked. Upon inquiring further, I found out that the products have been expertly concocted by a young entrepreneur, Denusha who is a qualified Marketeer and had been in the advertising field prior to realizing her potential to produce her own brand which tantalizes the taste buds.
Cashew drink, a creative concoction by a graduate hailing from Bandarawela who produces many more wonders with cashew as a hobby is another amazing product.
Enhancing beauty the natural way
Kanchana from Delgoda had researched on the harmful effects of chemical infused cosmetics and the ancient beauty regimes followed which were more beneficial to the health of the user. Eventually, the government officer decided to leave her comfort zone and pursue her dream of creating natural personal care products which are enriched by local herbs and plants.
An enterprising lady from Moratuwa who had been supplying her home made products at church feasts and family functions. These platforms have given her an opening to market her creations to larger customer base.
Allahamma’s vibrant handlooms
Allahaamma from Batticaloa had learned the art of creating handloom sarees which are bold and vibrant and certainly eye-catching.
A genuine love for art and nature inspired Malith to use recycled products and indoor plants to create unique potted plants and decors for everyday use which are soothing and refreshing and can be displayed at home or office.
Plant – a –gift
Fyto which means plant in Greece is a cactus and succulent plant based hobby which had transpired into a business endeavour by a young IT professional. Having gained a knack for planting which she has inherited from her mother, the beautiful gardener said, “It gives me immense pleasure to nurture the plants and see it grow.”
Herbal soap treasures
Gayathri, from Panadura, a Banker by profession gave rise to her love for making soap from the herbs and spices.
Ornate popsicle stick designs
Geetha who hails from far off Kekirawa and lives in Colombo after marriage had used her free time during her pregnancy to develop ornate deigns using popsicle sticks which are bought in bulk form and are truly fascinating.
‘Flavour It’ is another product born out of necessity and hardship by Nadeera, a wife and mother who had to resign from her workplace to look after her ill husband. This led her to learn a skill at Vidatha, a workshop conducted by the Provincial Council and embark on a flavourful enterprise.
Sit down massage therapy
The shopping spree ended on a high note with a much needed massage to relieve the tension in the muscles. Having learnt the art through a Japanese Master, the masseuse provide a much needed rejuvenation to both body and spirit.
Inspired and enriched
As the day drew to a close, I went home enriched with a wealth of inspiration. I noticed that each and every one had tears in their eyes while they related their personal journey to me. These are not mere businesses but inspirational stories that give us hope.
Pix by Rochelle
“ForHer” campaign for breast cancer awareness
As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Street Burger -home of Sri Lanka’s original gourmet burger-, launched its inaugural annual “ForHer” initiative, in collaboration with the Indira Cancer Trust and Suwara Arana -the first paediatric palliative care centre in Sri Lanka. The campaign kicked off on the 1st of October, and for the entire month the restaurant chain committed to donating a portion of every order placed at its outlets towards breast cancer research, medication, and support.
The ForHer campaign was initiated with the intention to not just raise funds, but also increase awareness on breast cancer – the most common type of cancer among females in Sri Lanka-, with the aim to also create a real and tangible impact on how we can steer conversations on the disease to the focus. Throughout the month of October and at all of its outlets –Bambalapitiya, Ethul Kottte, and Mt.Lavinia-, employees wore the iconic pink ribbon as part of their uniform, and all Street Burger customers were given the opportunity to participate and support this health campaign just by purchasing a meal.
“The statistics on breast cancer in Sri Lanka are alarming,” said Mafas Saheer, Operations Manager of Street Burger. “The launch of our ForHer campaign was our way of honouring the women in our communities, and doing our part to provide as much support as we can by raising both awareness and funds for the cause.”
Although launched to coincide with “Pink Ribbon Month”, Street Burger hopes to keep the campaign going well beyond October, with more initiatives to educate and engage its customers and the public for the benefit of all women in Sri Lanka.
Born from humble beginnings from a food truck on Marine Drive, but bolstered by a passion for innovation and love for burgers, Street Burger has now cemented for itself a reputation as the pioneers of gourmet burger culture in Sri Lanka. Street Burger sources the freshest premium-quality ingredients for the preparation of its intensely flavoursome and wide range of signature hand-crafted burgers, fries, and shakes – all made in-house; contributing to the ultimate gourmet burger experience. The brand now operates from three dine-in outlets across Colombo: Bambalapitiya, Ethul Kotte, and Mt. Lavinia.
Top bridal designer of today
Indi’s bridal designs design are renowned for its distinctive use of colours, quality of fabrics, intricate embroideries and a glorious rich Sri Lanka culture.Indi is included in the list of best Sri Lankan bridal designers and she is one designer who is acknowledged on the international pedestal for her different and unique designs of bridal ensembles. Her designs are elegant, her taste heavily inspired by local culture
Indi’s reimagination of traditions and styles is what sets her apart. And rightly so according to her the quintessential Indi’s bride is the one who’s self assured, highly confident and well aware of the craft and art.
A bridal attire is no charm if it is not designed under the signature label of popular designers. Indi is one designer whose collection provides ease with style. She creates magic when she puts together her mind and creativity to design any bridal attire.
To the Ends of the Earth
by Rajiva Wijesinha
Before the recent publication of Off the Beaten Track, Godage & Bros in this same year produced To the Ends of the Earth, yet another book by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha about his travels in exotic places.
That earlier book looked at four continents, North and South America, Africa and Asia but, as the title indicates, it was about the lesser known extremities of those areas. Beginning with Brazil, the book explores seven countries in South America, and also Mexico and three other countries in Central America along with three in the Caribbean. The travels there began in 1986 and concluded in 2019 with a journey to Bolivia.
That first visit hooked him as it were with the range of people and places he saw, for Brazil ‘struck me not as a melting pot, where everyone strives to settle within particular confines, but rather as a sort of fondue, where individual fiavours can be retained, while a common thread that provides reassurance adheres to each segment.
Being in effect a continent rather than a country does help. There is room for the Teutonic farmers of Rio Grande do Sul, with their expansive ranches and the fabulous churrascarias where one can pig oneself on all sorts of meats cooked in all sorts of ways, while animated conversations, characteristically Latin one would say, flow from all the tables around one; the blacks can have their energetic carnivals in Salvador, only to be outdone by the range of races in Rio who have made a multi-ethnic version of that art form emphatically their own; the mestizos, initially those of mixed American Indian and white blood, grow increasingly darker as one moves northward, and one finds too groups of oriental Indians and Chinese, adding their own characteristics to the mix; while out in the Mato Grosso and the Amazon areas to the west, pure Indians still live, some with lifestyles just the same as those their ancestors had practised for generations before Columbus sailed. ‘
In Peru and Ecuador he found fascinating the blend of Indian art and Christian imagery, the San Ignacio Chapel in Arequipa, decorated by a devoted Indian artist in murals that recreated the delicate plumage of tropical birds, in natural dyes that had survived over two hundred years, later the statues and pillars in many churches in Quito, the exciting capital of Ecuador.
But what entranced above all in this continent was the magnificent civilization of Aztecs and Incas and above all the Mayas. In Mexico he had a glimpse of a continuity of culture when at the great pyramids of Teotihuacan he came across a ritualistic dance, hundreds of young men dressed in evocative traditional costumes, headbands and elaborate cloaks, bare strips of cloth at the waist and intricate leggings, moving or rather stamping energetically in a complex rhythm, up and down, forward and back, persistently, powerfully, to the relentless beating of drums. They continued while he climbed up the pyramids of both the Sun and the Moon, and were still at it when he got back, an absolutely breathtaking sight, close up as well as from the heights that placed the pattern in even more vivid perspective.
And then there were the Mayas, the Temple of the Magician at Uxmal, a pyramid that somehow also had an oval shape, that took his breath away. That motivated another visit, this time to Guatemala, where a helpful consul at the border let him in without a visa to see the great complex at Tikal, deep in the jungle, which he wandered through on his own, to the sounds and sights of exotic birds, toucans and coucals and the colourful Peten turkey.
There were also other sorts of jungle adventures, jumping into the confluence of the two rivers that make up the Amazon at Manaos, fishing for piranhas for supper in the Kumaseva river near Iquitos in Peru, walking in the jungle there while his guide swung on lianas Tarzan fashion in dripping rain.
There are jungle trips in Africa too, crowded safaris in Tanzania and Uganda, tailor made trips in Mozambique and Angola, which allowed for lingering over glorious sunsets over river and sea. More unusual were the religious fantasies of Ethiopia, what was supposed to be the palace of the Queen of Sheba at Axum, the Debre Dammo monastery which had to be reached by climbing a rope, which he was dissuaded from trying to do, a long trek up a steep hill to see the Mariam Korka church, an impressive small building with wonderful paintings on its walls, and its neighbour the Daniel Korka church which required slithering along an open cliff.
There were too the fantastic rock hewn churches of Lalibela, and the monasteries nearby, one a long cave under a rocky ledge, with pilgrims clad in white and swaying gently to the relentless gentle rhythm of wonderful chanting. And there were beautifully illustrated bibles, which the priest held open for inspection without allowing them to be touched. These, and exotic crosses, which you were permitted to kiss, were drawn from ramshackle cupboards with total nonchalance.
Then there was rocking across the crocodile infested Nile in a coracle in Sudan, to see the multiple remains on Sai Island, a temple from the days of the pharaohs, a Byzantine Cathedral and the remains of an Ottoman fort. And nothing had prepared him for the pyramids of the Sudan, not one cluster but two, framed against a large rock at Karima, framed against the sunset at Begrawiya. That had followed a sight of whirling dervishes far outside Khartoum, a whole host walking round and round the open area in the middle, whirling and chanting, while the surrounding crowd joined in what seemed a marvelous frenzy.
Lions and hippos in the Serengeti pale in comparison, though that visit to Tanzania also included the beautiful architecture of Zanzibar and its quaint palaces. As exotic was the hilltop capital of King Moshoeshoe in Lesotho, a surprisingly beautiful country, which even boasted dinosaur footprints.
The Asian sections, looking only at the island nations in the east, provide equally unusual experiences, including ferries through the Moluccas islands, ending in New Year on a far away beach in the Kea Islands, abounding in giant tortoises and colourful starfish.
There were several visits to the Philippines, but the most exciting was the first, when he explored on his own, taking a bus up to Baguio and then to the underground caves at Sagada and the terraced rice fields of Banaue. Very different were several meetings with Ninoy Aquino, President of the Philippines from 2010, including a lunch when he had to make conversation in lieu of the Sri Lankan Prime Minister who gazed blandly into the middle distance.
The range of experience is splendidly illustrated, pages of lively colour and black and white pictures which capture the lines of the different arts and crafts of the different continents.
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