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Rescuing Sri Lankan history: Reflections on the past

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By Uditha Devapriya

In his influential essay “The People of the Lion”, R. A. L. H. Gunawardana argues for a national historiography, devoid of Western ideology. He does not refute or call for the doing away of such ideology altogether, but suggests rather that it has intruded on studies of group identities to such an extent that the history we think we unearth is very different to the history that may actually have prevailed.

Thus, by imputing terms like “race” (a term originating in 16th century Europe) and “Aryan” (which gained prominence with attempts by Orientalist scholars to draw parallels between Indo-Lankan and European languages), we are, as he points out, “presenting a view of the past moulded by contemporary ideology.” If this is the case, which I personally think it must be, then what is the history we have and the history we must talk of?

What we know, from the inscriptions, the chronicles, and the reconstructed narratives, is that Sri Lankan society was never really rooted in the concept of race as it is today. Group ideology was determined by tribes that migrated from other societies. The first hunter-gatherers lacked iron implements, which is how they came to be assimilated by Indo-Aryan Iron Age settlers. While these hunter-gatherers are said to have approximated to Veddhas, the later Iron Age settlers are said to have approximated to Sinhala people.

The question of whether hunter-gatherers formed an agricultural group is debated: the Valahassa Jatakaya, for instance, tells us of she-yakkas devouring food from wrecked ships and enslaving, if not tormenting, the sailors aboard them, while the Mahavamsa relates an episode of Vijaya coming across these ships after his encounter with Kuveni. Fa-Hsien was, as K. M. de Silva observes, not being very helpful in these matters when he wrote that the country had been originally inhabited by yaksas and nagas who traded with merchants, simply because human settlements predated both those clans.

Such narratives divided not just scholars, but also littérateurs: Martin Wickramasinghe in Sinhala Sahithyaye Nageema argued that the existence of such ships showed the absence of an advanced pre-Vijayan agricultural society, while the pioneers of the Hela Havula stated that Kuveni having engaged herself with a spinning wheel at the time of Vijaya’s entrance showed that society had been advanced prior to Indo-Aryan colonisation.

The issue is that these texts were occupied more with idealising a religious or dynastic sect than with presenting a view of life as it was lived. If they presented such a view, which they occasionally did, they did so in a hazy, amorphous way. This requires us to turn to hard evidence, etched in stone and recorded for posterity.

The Brahmi inscriptions form arguably the most concrete evidence we have for the civilisation which developed, grew, and flourished after the Indo-Aryan migration. These inscriptions come to us from very early on, and they were made by the upper classes of their time. We have Yaksha, Naga, Vedic, and Puranic inscriptions, and they allude to the status of their authors, their families, and their occupations.

The Puranic inscriptions tell us of pre-Buddhist religious cults which revolved around the Mother Goddess, Vishnu, and Siva, a point that lends credence to G. P. Malalasekara’s view that Vijaya was tolerant of all faiths. Evidence from the inscriptions of Jain and Tamil settlements, as well as settlements by, inter alia, Kabojas (Kashmiris), Moriyas (Mauryas), and Baratas (merchants, or nobles according to Paranavitana) tells us that we were a multiracial country, at least in terms of “contemporary ideology.”

But these clans were so disparate that they found it hard to develop a cohesive identity. They identified themselves by a totem: Moriyas with the peacock, Lambakannas the hare, Kulingas the shrike, and Tarachchas the hyena. This continued into the evolution of group identities later, as evidenced by the use of the lion and the tiger: the former became the standard of the “Sinhala” people, whereas the latter was adopted by the Nayakkar kings of Kandy who ruled over those same “Sinhala” people.

Not surprisingly, in medieval Sri Lankan society the ideology of the ruling class became the identity of the State. What this meant was that there was no overriding racial consciousness of the sort we discern today, so much so that, for instance, when Dutugemunu went to war we had, not Sinhalas fighting Tamils, but one dynasty battling another.

“Sinhala Buddhism”

was probably not rooted in society the way it is now, and if it was, the needs of the sasana would have been considered more important than ethno-nationalist considerations: the author of the Mahavamsa, after all, has Dutugemunu say he’s fighting “not for the joy of sovereignty”, but for the preservation of the Order.

The vague position Buddhism occupied at this juncture can be gleaned from the fact that it was accorded a foremost status even by invading forces, at least in the case of Elara; the Mahavamsa valorises him as a just ruler, tainted only by his “false beliefs.” In contrast, after the 10th century we see a heightening of anti-Buddhist and anti-Jain sentiment among South Indian invaders, which in turn produces a backlash on Sri Lankan soil.

In an otherwise eloquent essay on the subject (“Buddhism, Identity, and Conflict”), H. L. Seneviratne contends that Sri Lankan society was never the ekeeya rajya it is touted as by ultra-nationalists. He is theoretically correct, yet there is an important caveat that must be inserted: that the Westphalian notion of sovereignty was alien to the rulers of the land and thus not totally applicable, at least not to the extent it is today.

To be sure, “particularism” persisted in Anuradhapura, and the absence of a proper central administration in Polonnaruwa contributed to the disintegration of the rajya, denuding it of any ekeeya pretensions. Yet, at the same time, group consciousness permeated society even at the level of a divided State. That is why regional polities tended to band together in the face of military incursions from India, and why the absorption of those polities into a central State in Polonnaruwa under Parakramabahu I deprived the Sinhala kingdom of a viable base from which it could strategise counter-campaigns against such incursions.

In the aftermath of Kalinga Magha’s military campaigns during the Polonnaruwa era, we see a strengthening of a local Buddhist identity in response to the threat of fragmentation of the State, ekeeya or otherwise. It was a classic case of hostility by an invading force giving rise to a group identity on the invaded terrain. Nissanka Malla’s decree that only a Buddhist could rule the land hence must be seen in the light of Magha’s later campaigns of destruction. The fact that this “Buddhist king” himself is said to have originated from the Kalinga line speaks volumes about the amorphous nature of group identity formation.

To be sure, there was opposition to an ethnic Other occupying the throne, but we must understand that it was never the kind of opposition ultra-nationalists project towards the prospect of an ethnic Other presiding over Sri Lanka today.

When Bhuvanekabahu VI faced an uprising in the south, for instance, it was later painted as an uprising against a ruler of Malayali blood; this did not stop chroniclers from celebrating him for his conquest of Jaffna. The case of Waththimi Kumaraya is also significant: while the records are unclear, what we have is an account of a Muslim pretender being killed by a group of nobles, only to be venerated later by Muslims and Buddhists – the latter of whom worship him as Gale Bandara Deviyo. The level of ignorance displayed by ultra-nationalists to such subtle nuances of history surfaced years ago when, after I noted that Gale Bandara Deviyo may have had Muslim origins, a young lad of 19 protested his origins and suggested to me that, because he was non-Buddhist, he should not be venerated!

We see such ambiguities in the Kandyan era as well. However, despite Gunawardana’s assertion that uprisings by the aristocracy against rulers were a common occurrence even prior to the advent of Nayakkar rule, we must admit that such uprisings became more and more common after the installation of the Nayakkar line on the throne.

The contrast between the Ingirisihatana and the Vadigahatana must be considered in this light: the former celebrated Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe for his victory over the British in 1803, while the latter was written by Kavisundara Mudali, a confidante of Eheliyapola Adikaram who was antagonistic towards the king, following the annexation of 1815.

If that sounds strange, consider that the writers of historical chronicles have always, since the time of the Dipavamsa and the Mahavamsa, tilted in favour of one group over another. That is why we see a great deal of Dutugemunu, and so little of Mahasen, who Mahanama Thera seems to have mentioned, if at all, for his efforts at developing the irrigation system of the land. Curious as such paradoxes may be, they survived well into the British era, when the continuation of the Mahavamsa depicted the British as heroic, even though the author, Yagirala Pannananda, received no proper backing from the State.

In any case, it’s one of the biggest ironies of history that the Vadigahatana and the Kirala Sandeshaya called out on the wickedness of Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe by identifying himself with an ethnic Other, when the Nayakkar line had been chosen after the death of Vira Parakrama Narendrasinghe to head the country because there had been no Sinhalese of kshatriya blood (a sine qua non of kinship in the post-Nissanka Malla era) available; certain nobles had wanted Unamboowe, but he was not “pure”.

It is also ironic that each and every anti-British uprising after 1815 required a Nayakkar pretender; the exception, after which no Nayakkars reclaimed the fight, was 1848. Such facets have long been forgotten by those who insert contemporary ideology into the past: perhaps the most grievous error we can commit, not just to history, but to our history. To rescue that history thus requires a radical re-evaluation of our past.

The writer can be reached at udakdev1@gmail.com



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Beyond the fiction of Alborada

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By Sarath Chandrajeewa

“No matter how much a work of art is sweet, if it hides the truth and disregards humanity it can only be equalled to a beautiful but empty shell that attracts us.” (L.E. Kerbel – Russian Sculptor)

‘Alborada’ is the Spanish word for ‘the dawn’. In 1984, a music group was born in Peru, South America by the same name and they gained immense popularity. Their music mainly spread among people in North and South America. Their music’s foundation was the traditional music of Native Americans who lived in the Andes mountain range (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTD2VDcxvNc). Likewise, in 2005 a soap opera by the same name was broadcast in Mexico, North America, which became very popular. This story was based on a series of events that took place during the historical period when Panama and Mexico were on the verge of gaining freedom from Spain (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iM5s_d1vls).

In 2021 Asoka Handagama made a film in Sri Lanka by the same name, Alborada. The protagonist of this film is Pablo Neruda (1904 – 1973), the Chilean Consul in Ceylon for two years, from 1929 to 1931. He was very young, only 25, when he was appointed to this post. Ceylon was a colony at the time and he was lodged at No. 56, 42nd street, Wellawatte, Colombo 6, a place close to the sea. He had written down his reminiscences, in his own language, in book form. Later it was translated into English and published under the title ‘Memoirs’. According to this book, he had referred to his house as ‘My solitary bungalow’. It is said that the name Alborada was proposed by Pablo Neruda for the house of his friend, Lionel Wendt (1900 – 1944), who had lived at Guildford Crescent, Colombo 7.

Wendt too was fluent in several languages including English, Spanish and some other European languages. It is apparent, from documents and events that took place at that time, that his house, Alborada, had not been a lonely or tranquil place. It is clear that house Alborada was always full of people, such as painters, dancers, actors, photographers as well as pianists and those who enjoyed music. It was more like a cultural centre where discussions, art critiques and debates took place. (L.C. Van Geyzel, et al. [2000]. ‘Lionel Wendt: A Centennial tribute’. Lionel Wendt memorial fund; Sampath Bandara. [2017]. Lionel Wendt Kalava Saha Jeevithaya, Sarasavi Publication. [Sinhala]).

Though Handagama’s film was titled Alborada, the actual location, where incidents mentioned took place, was the Solitary Bungalow, the Chilean Consul’s official residence (Jamie James. [2019]. ‘Pablo Neruda’s life as a struggling Poet in Sri Lanka: A young poet’s Adventures in the Foreign Service’. Retrieved from https://lithub.com/pablo-nerudas-life-as-a-struggling-poet-in-sri-lanka/). In the 20th Century Sri Lankan context, Alborada was a distinguished active cultural centre. As a Sri Lankan cultural symbol, it directly connects with the character of Lionel Wendt. The creator of a work of art has the total freedom to create his work as he pleases and also to choose whatever name for the particular work. Handagama’s Alborada is similar to a poem, set to inspiring music. It includes a series of artistic figure compositions and features a number of skilled performing artistes. The trailer of Handagama’s film gave me some ideas.

When creating a work of art based on historical events, rather than myth and imaginary incidents, its trustworthiness depends on the people who faced the incident, the actual incidents, exact places, time period and the political and cultural background. Consequently, thorough research is necessary to identify accurate works based on historical incidents. It is difficult to rectify myths or false assumptions ingrained in society by unreliable books, documents, magazines or films. People will always embrace falsity, deception and myth, over the truth. Our culture as well as other cultures are replete with many such examples.

Alborada

‘Alborada’ is the name of Lionel Wendt’s house. It is important as it is the house of a great Sri Lankan cultural icon of the last century. It is also important as Alborada was the name given to the renowned cultural centre of modern history, in Sri Lanka. It is from this place that art activities in our country were taken to the international arena. Alborada was situated at No. 18 old Guildford Crescent. Today this street is called Premasiri Kemadasa Mawatha. Six years after his demise, in 1950 his friend Harold Peiris (1905-1981) demolished his old house, Alborada, and built a gallery and a performing arts centre (Lionel Wendt Art Gallery and Theatre) to commemorate him. It was designed by painter Geoffrey Beling (1907 – 1992), Principal Art Inspector, Department of Education, and Bernard G. Thornley (Manel Fonseka. [1994]. ‘Rediscovering Lionel Wendt, Lionel Wendt Photographs’. Deutsche Bank Colombo and Lionel Wendt Memorial Fund).

When Lionel Wendt was alive, renowned upcountry master dancers, Amunugama Suramba and Nittawela Ukkuwa used to lodge at Alborada with their troupes, when they visited Colombo (Dancer Dr. Vaidyavathi Rajapakse, daughter of Master Dancer Suramba, Personal communication, 2017).

A documentary movie ‘Song of Ceylon’, directed by Basil Wright in 1934, was placed first at the Brussels International film festival in 1935. The creative segments of the movie were organized at Alborada. Manel Fonseka reported in an article, ‘Rediscovering Lionel Wendt’ in 1994, that in an interview with Julia Margaret Cameron, Basil Wright had said this about Lionel Wendt; “I think he was one of the greatest still photographers that ever lived. I should place him among the six best I’ve come across”.

As a result of discussions held at Alborada, master dancers Nittawela Ukkuwa and Amunugama Suramba were taken to England for a recording of drum beats, for the movie ‘Song of Ceylon’. This trip was sponsored by painter Harry Peiris (1904-1988). A dance school was established to develop up-country dance, in Gunnepana, Sirimalwatte, Kandy in the 1920s for Master Suramba, as a result of discussions held among a group led by Wendt and George Keyt (1901-1993). This troupe, which included the group of up-country dancers, Ukkuwa, Nittawela Gunaya, Punchi Gura and Sri Jayana Rajapakse, was later upgraded as the ‘Dance Ensemble of Central Lanka’. Jayana’s coming of age ceremony, inclusive of his ‘Ves ceremony’, held at the Degaldoruwa Rajamaha Viharaya, Kandy, in 1939, and Jayana’s dance training in India later, were all sponsored by Wendt (Dr. Vaidyavathi Rajapakse, Personal communication, 2017).

The first art inspector appointed to Sri Lanka, during the colonial era, was Charles Freegrove Winzer (1886-1940), an Englishman. He became close friends with Wendt, during his tenure in Sri Lanka. In the early years, Winzer and Wendt both wrote reviews on exhibitions of George Keyt, Justin Peiris Deraniyagala (1903-1967) and Geoffrey Beling. Wendt also translated Neruda’s art reviews from Spanish to English and published them (Manel Fonseka.

[1994]. ‘Rediscovering Lionel Wendt, Lionel Wendt Photographs’. Deutsche Bank Colombo and Lionel Wendt Memorial Fund).

The first avant-garde art movement in Sri Lanka, the ’43 Group’, was born under the leadership of Winzer and Wendt. The 43 Group consisted of Wendt (Chief Organizer), painters Harry Peiris (Chief Secretary), George Keyt, J.W.G Beling, Richard Gabriel (1924-2016), Ivan Peiris (1921-1988), Justin Pieris Deraniyagala, George Claessen (1909-1999), Aubrey Collette (1920-1992) and L.T.P Manjusri (1902-1982). The meetings of the 43 group were held at Alborada until Wendt’s death.

Afterwards the meetings were held at the house of Harry Peiris, Sapumal Foundation, Barnes Place (Sarath Chandrajeewa. [2010]. ‘Modern Art in Sri Lanka and its socio-political environment’, Artful resistance: contemporary Art from Sri Lanka, ZKF publishers. Germany).

As mentioned above, Pablo Neruda was only 25 when he was in Sri Lanka as the Chilean Ambassador (1929-1931). At 29, Wendt was four years older. In his book ‘Memoirs’, translated from Spanish into English by Hardie St. Martin, published by Penguin, Neruda had written thus about Wendt, on page 93.

“Little by little the impenetrable crust began to crack open and I struck up a few good friendships. At the same time, I discovered the younger generation, steeped in colonialist culture, who talked only about books just out in England. I found out that the pianist, photographer, critic and cinematographer Lionel Wendt was the central figure of a cultural life torn between the death rattles of the Empire and a human appraisal of the untapped values of Ceylon.

Lionel Wendt, who owned an extensive library and received all the latest books from England, got into the extravagant and generous habit of every week sending to my house, which was a good distance from the city, a cyclist loaded down with a sack of books. Thus, for some time, I read kilometers of English novels, among them the first edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, published privately in Florence” (Memoirs by Pablo Neruda, translated from Spanish by Hardie St. Martin [1997]. Penguin Books).

To be continued

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Politics at its most primitive

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By Uditha Devapriya

Review of Shaveen Bandaranayake’s Groundswell

Sarasavi Publications, 2021, 118 pages, Rs. 300

Half-way into Shaveen Bandaranayake’s novel, the Minister at the heart of the story tells us that the wealth he earned was people, not money. This is what politicians usually say. In the very least, it is what people who dislike politicians imagine they say.

Come to think of it, both amount to the same thing: we’ve turned politicians into objects of hate so much that we’ve come to love them for being who we think they are. Since we can’t control them in real life, we want to dominate them in popular fiction. The number of plays and films that poke fun at Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Ministers testify to how badly we want to be, not like them, but above them.

I am deeply suspicious of satire of that sort. In his excellent review of Pusswedilla, Hafeel Farisz tells us why political parody ends up serving the people and objects being parodied. This is not rocket science. At its best, political satire can move us to anger, disenchantment, and rebellion. At its worst, it can lull us into a sense of complacency with things as they are and as they seem. Farisz seemed to think that Pusswedilla epitomised the latter, reinforcing cultural stereotypes while offering no proper critique of the political establishment and the ruling class. I suppose you can say the same thing of Vijaya Nandasiri’s comedies: at his best, he makes us aware of the corruption of the political class; at his worst, he turns the corrupt into objects of love-hate, full of tropes and clichés but nothing substantive.

Shaveen Bandaranayake’s Groundswell reads as a political satire, though I have my doubts. Interweaving different stories and unfolding like a film, it goes back and forth. I won’t call its ending funny, but then how can any novel involving politics end on a funny note?

What Bandaranayake does in his story, short as it is, is to tell us that nothing good can come out of a system mired as much in corruption as in patronage. Since these people are tied to each other through politics, politics can prove to be their undoing. The way he forays into this theme and explores it, without regurgitating the usual political clichés, puts the novel at a notch or two above what you come across at, say, the Lionel Wendt. Without conforming to crude stereotypes, he attempts to humanise his characters, showing us why connections matter in politics, and why they don’t always work out.

The plot is simple enough. A woman comes across a corpse of a man at the foot of a hill one fine morning. She informs the police. By the looks of it, he seems to have lost his grip and fallen to his death. The story then rewinds to a political rally at that most obtrusive site of political rallies, a temple, where we are introduced to Sarath Aluwihare, a Minister trying to win his next election. We are also introduced to Sunil, a young man endeavouring to land a job. Events will unfold in a way that will bring the two of them together.

We are told that Sarath hails from a family of politicians, and that this family has been in politics for over two generations. The surname tells us as much. Sunil, on the other hand, is so unobtrusive that Shaveen doesn’t grant him the privilege of a surname, which, after all, is the preserve of those who matter. Like other village youths lacking employment and in dire search of a patron from the ruling class, Sunil clearly is not important; even when he finds a job as Aluwihare’s driver, his status rises, but not so much as to protect him from the novel’s ending. He is as destined to his place in life as Aluwihare is to his.

There are other characters though, and they have surnames. There is the head priest of the temple, for instance, an unabashed admirer of Aluwihare who uses him to achieve his not so religious purposes. Then there is Dileepa Jayanetti, who rises “from rags to riches” and ends up becoming the owner of the country’s biggest media house. Dileepa finds his way up by befriending the daughter of another prominent politician, who introduces him to Aluwihare, who in turn becomes his biggest benefactor. You sense the pattern here.

Halfway through the story, Dileepa hires Lasantha Muthukumarana, a journalist who tries to stick to the tenets of his trade. Dileepa does this because he thinks that by hiring the honest, he can keep them from being honest. For someone who is so bright and manipulative, this is far from the most brilliant decision he could have taken: a few pages later, Muthukumarana is investigating a hit-and-run incident which may be connected to Aluwihare.

In Bandaranayake’s world, everyone seems to know everyone else. That is why it comes to no surprise that the man run down by a vehicle in the middle of the night should have been married to a woman Aluwihare just happened to hire at his Ministry, and that she should be rumoured to have formed the object of Aluwihare’s affections. That Lasantha thought for a moment that a news report linking all this to a prominent Minister would make it in a paper linked to and blessed by that Minister is, of course, intriguing. But he tries to get it published it anyway. When the predictable opprobrium follows and he finds he can’t get it in, the story moves to its inevitable and in many ways unsurprising conclusion.

In saying all this, I am by no means revealing the plot. In fact, surprising as it may seem, the plot is what least interests me about Bandaranayake’s novel. This is a narrative I have come across many times, in many forms. Bandaranayake takes great pains to make it all relevant to the immediate political situation, i.e. the one we are in, now. Those who manage to draw links between his characters and their “real-life counterparts” should, therefore, be forgiven for thinking that he has attempted political critique masquerading as satire. My interest in it, then, has less to do with the novel than the genre it belongs to.

If Groundswell can be called a satire, it is satirical only to the extent that his characters are caricatures. Yet, as I implied earlier, it is not a satire in the way that a work like Pusswedilla is. The characters fit into preconceived and familiar patterns, but that doesn’t make them the clichéd tropes they turn into elsewhere. These characters are more rounded, certainly more complex. Sarath Aluwihare, for instance, does not possess the overstuffed tummy his counterparts from countless parodies do, while Sunil doesn’t become a Renfield type figure hell bent on catering to his “Master.” Even though Bandaranayake can be facetious, and is pugnacious, he refuses to dabble in the kind of satirical humour which could have turned his story into a Vijaya Nandasiri style parody of politics in Sri Lanka.

Depending on how you view it, this may be the strongest point or the biggest weakness in Bandaranayake’s novel. Groundswell makes several important points, and they should be considered pertinent whether they be couched the language of satire or of serious political critique. The medium is hardly the message, contrary to what people might say, and the way you communicate your ideas should not really impact the importance of those ideas.

And yet, there are one or two episodes which reveal Bandaranayake’s funny side. It is here that the disjuncture between the satirical undertones and the ponderous overtones of the narrative, and the author’s voice, proves fatal to the development of the story.

Bandaranayake is at his best when he is setting up situations, and these situations are, all things considered, effective in setting up the plot. He tries to create atmosphere, and does a good job of laying the context. But when each and every point is prefaced by laboriously long explanations of social phenomena, such as the separation between temple and State in Sri Lanka, or the wretched fate encountered by a million or so menial workers in West Asia, you struggle to distinguish between the narrative and the commentary.

For local readers, these explanations will at best be passé. I suspect they will be for foreign readers as well. Groundswell is a novel, or more correctly a novella, which could have been shorter, tighter, and more effective without them. Not surprisingly, the story gains strength when Bandaranayake cuts to the chase, and loses track when he does not.

I have read this kind of story many times before. What makes this one interesting is that it is Bandaranayake’s first attempt at fiction, and that, for a first attempt, it’s damn good. Even within its limits, he has come up with something enjoyable. That I enjoyed the book, and of course the brilliant illustrations that more than just decorate it*, is why I wish it were leaner, shorter, and tighter. Less can be more. More often than not, it is.

* With one exception: the eighth drawing depicts a scene that, if you think about it carefully, is at odds with the text on the opposite page.

The writer can be reached at udakdev1@gmail.com

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Thirty two little ballerinas win awards at TBSC’s 2021 prize giving

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Text and pictures by
PRIYAN DE SILVA

Thirty two little ballerinas were presented with certificates of achievements and awards at the 2021 prize giving of The Ballet school of Colombo (TBSC) held recently.

Directors of TBSC Tara Cooke and Romina Gyi said that they were extremely proud of the achievements of their charges and thanked the students and parents for their dedication in attending classes diligently despite the trying conditions.

Certificates of achievement were awarded in the baby ballet, junior ballet and intermediate ballet categories to students who excelled in pre-classical and pre-jazz ballet.

Debbie McRitchie, International Director of the Commonwealth Society of Teachers of Dancing (to which TBSC is affiliated), in her congratulatory message thanked the parents for investing in their childrens dance education and the teachers of TBSC for preparing the candidates. She said that dance is like life and is a journey but not a destination and encouraged all stakeholders to work harder.

The prize giving was a proud moment for both students and parents as it was a parent who presented the certificates of achievement to their child. Five-year-old Shenaya de Alwis Samarasinghe was the youngest candidate at the prize giving, passing with honours in pre-classical ballet.

The Ballet School of Colombo was the former ‘Oosha Garten Sschool of Ballet’ pioneered by the late Kalasuri Oosha Saravanamuttu-Wijesinghe and was instituted as the ‘The Ballet School of Colombo’ in 2016.

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