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Shattering the glass ceiling – Kumudini Perera-David

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by Rochelle Palipane Gunaratne

Pics courtesy Tai Hsin Photography

While breaking the glass ceiling is what we refer to as breaking of barriers that hold women back, I picture Kumudini Perera-David actually kicking it with all her might and shattering it to smithereens as Kumu to me has always been a strong and vibrant personality. While I pause to reflect, I can’t help seeing the vivacious Tina Turner pounding her staccato heels on the floor as she sings, “What you see is what you get “when I think of Kumu. Her overwhelming trait is her forthright attitude and fearless manner as she’s one of THE MOST interesting personas I’ve met.

Making her presence felt

I recall the fact that even at school she just could not be ignored as her personality shone through like a rainbow that bursts through the storm clouds and arches across the land. Although we greeted each other at school and cheered for the same house at the sports meet and other events, I had no knowledge of the real Kumu, except of being aware of a helluva talent she possessed for singing!

Advocating for change

In the ensuing years, we used to meet at various events but it did not go beyond a girly greeting until I added her on FB and read her testimony. Kumu’s knack for venting her deepest thoughts on social media was an inspiration as it paved the way for those who hid painful memories to address these burning issues considered a taboo by society. Her experiences of being abused as a child, effervescent attitude to sex drove a metaphorical nail on the head and earned her an extensive fan following, to the point in which she occasionally informed that it was time for filtering her account as it exceeded the limit.

When did you come to that realization that your experience could be shared was my first question at our lengthy tête-à-tête over coffee and chocolate milkshake, to which she responded; “It was when I overcame the stigma of being a victim and realized that I am a victor and my story could help another person to rise above the vicissitudes and crush the waves of despair which threaten to drown out the person you were created to be. Most often, a brutal awareness of being party to a stolen childhood can cause bouts of depression which steals one’s joy and it needs to be addressed professionally with the first step being the awareness. “Most often than not victims of any form of abuse, especially when they have been subjected to it as children, tend to internalize their experiences, allowing guilt to gnaw away their propensity to enjoy life to the fullest.” Recognizing the fact that you are not to blame is the first step in the healing process. As well, it is essential to deal with the anger that wells up against the perpetrator, as in most cases it is a person of trust who has manipulated the situation. Seeking redress through legal means, though ideal, may not always be viable and may cause further victimization and pain to the victim but to move forward through forgiveness is always a good option as it releases the invisible hold another person’s actions has on you,” revealed Kumu.

Till I was 33 years old I was on survival mode and trying to cope with anxiety and depression but I had an epiphany which led me to throw away caution to the wind and seek counseling and advocating for awareness and change in how we perceive ourselves, augmenting our individuality and value as people who deserve to be loved correctly and to enable us to love without fear or trepidation.

She is also known to campaign against animal abuse as she herself has literally adopted many fur babies who have been abandoned by negligent human beings.

The diabolical actions against her has not made her a person devoid of compassion as she is ultra- sensitive, making her a go to person for anyone ( irrespective of gender) who is dealing with issues related to abuse. While abuse has been prevalent since time immemorial, it has been swept under the proverbial carpet, which has enabled it to rear its ugly head continuously but gutsy folks like Kumu are adamant to rout out the evil by placing themselves as juggernauts even at the expense of being ridiculed publicly on social media. It is a stand only a few can muster and she runs the gauntlet of advocacy day in and day out with a determination that deserves all praise.

Singing her way through life

On a lighter note, we focus on Kumu’s incredible voice, her acting and artistic flair which is awe-inspiring. Her performances are compelling and makes you think that she came out of her mother’s womb singing but for those who are not aware, Kumu discovered her extraordinary talent during her late teens and she attributes Aunty Marianne of Merry an Singers fame to having lovingly drawn her out of her shell.

Exploring her penchant for teaching, she along with a few passionate individuals have formed a choir, aptly titled, Clefolution which literally means resolving both clefs- enabling equally passionate singers, be it amateur or professional to band together and sing to their hearts content. As well, the lockdown period created an opportunity for her to spread her knowledge beyond the shores through online voice training classes which she conducts on a daily basis.

While her nightingale voice has gained recognition, one cannot help swoon at her drawings and that too was a self- taught passion which she dabbles and excels in.

While Kumu’s life has been dotted with trials, she has embraced it all with gumption and stood up tall against the marauding forces, inspiring others to not merely live but thrive!



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Life style

TSUNAMI

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by Dr. Chandana (Chandi) Jayawardena DPhil

Gifts from Japan

My fascination about the seas, oceans and waves commenced at age five, when my father returned from home from Japan. Among a few items my dad brought home with him after his official trips to Japan, were kimonos, my first Judogi for practicing martial arts. All of which were nice, and my favourite Japanese item was a numbered copy of the painting, ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ (神奈川沖浪裏) or the Wave by Katsushika Hokusai.

Nostalgia

Growing up in Bambalapitiya Flats, Colombo, Ceylon, every morning I would watch the real waves of the Indian Ocean from my bedroom windows and from our balcony, as well as Hokusai’s semi-abstract dramatic waves that was hung in our living room. At that time, I always wondered if the rows of ugly rocks placed by the city to prevent sea erosion, were really needed. Adding the years, I worked and lived-in seaside resorts and hotels, I have been fortunate to spend over 30 years, listening to, or looking at waves, every day. A few years ago, my father gifted me a copy of this great Japanese painting, which now hangs in my office in Canada. Nostalgia continues…

Wave

The drawing of the Wave is a deification of the sea made by Hokusai who lived with the religious terror of the overwhelming ocean completely surrounding his volcanic country. He was impressed by the sudden fury of the ocean’s leap toward the sky, by the deep blue of the inner side of the curve, by the splash of its claw-like crest as it sprays forth droplets. The Wave, completed around 1830, is Hokusai’s most famous work and is often considered the most recognizable work of Japanese art, in the world.

2004

I never fully understood the eerie message Hokusai was communicating with the world, through his timeless masterpiece for 174 years, until the year 2004. The Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004 is one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. Some waves that hit Indonesia were 100 feet tall, and Sri Lanka recorded 33 feet waves. This Tsunami resulted in 228,000 estimated deaths (35,000 in Sri Lanka) in 14 countries, and displaced over 1.7 million people (half a million in Sri Lanka). Mercilessness of the angry nature truly defies imagination.

Inspiration

Two weeks ago, my youngest son, Ché Rana asked me if I could give him a special present for his 18th birthday. He wanted me to do a large (4 feet X 4 feet) abstract painting for his bedroom, as his birthday present. He requested me to create the painting based on the theme he gave me (Tsunami) and his preferred colours. I wasn’t given much of artistic freedom, but he inspired me to produce a new large painting. While creating this painting in my basement studio, my creative mood inspired me to pen a new poem – ‘Tsunamic Moods’ as a tribute to Hokusai.

Tsunamic Moods

 

A cool morning and a calm ocean

Greeted by gentle breeze as we sail

Everyone happy in a relaxing holiday mood

Life seems peaceful when all is plain sailing

 

Suddenly the dark sky invades, the sunshine flees

Change of course, birds disappearing abruptly

Seagull screams drowned by some fearsome noise

A provoked nature, ocean exploded in thunderous fury

 

Swells coming small at first, then large and violent

We are helpless in the midst of giant monstrous waves

Dreams plunge to nightmares, crushing my hopes

Can we survive a ruthless life tsunami?

 

 

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Diminishing Dumbara patterns call for revival

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The Anthropology Department of the Colombo National Museum is home to a striking repertoire of Dumbara designs. The collection which is open to the public only through temporary exhibitions, urges the revival of this fast diminishing traditional form of Lankan art which is described as a kind of ‘artistic meditation.’

by Randima Attygalle

The staff of the Anthropology Department of the Colombo National Museum treats me to a feast of painstakingly designed exotic dumbara mats, tapestries, cushion covers, purses and much more. I marvel at the skill of the traditional Lankan artisan which is often taken for granted, bargained over, driven to substitute with other means of income today.

Once the staple of the picturesque Dumbara valley (valley of the mist) or Dumbara mitiyawatha, the craft was even sought by royalty. Some of the descendants of the master weavers who enthralled Kandyan monarchs with their art, still labour to keep their family tradition alive in villages of the Dumbara valley such as Thalagune and Menikhinna. They work against many odds. The base for the craft is the hemp leaf (niyanda hana) botanically termed Sansevieria zeylanica which is hard to source today. This drives the weavers to find substitutes such as cotton.

“The difficulty in sourcing traditional inputs and the poor market price for this time consuming craft force many weavers to abandon it. In the olden days, low pit looms were used to weave hemp. Today these are replaced by cotton and standing looms. The natural dyes are today replaced with synthetics,” notes the Director General, Department of National Museums, Sanuja Kasthuriarchchi.

One of the chief keepers of the tangible history of ours, Kasthuriarachchi with her special interest in traditional local arts, moots public-private collaborations to revive this one-of-a-kind Sri Lankan craft. Unless the weavers are offered incentives and assisted to find markets, their art would soon be confined only to museums, she laments. “This environmental-friendly form of art deserves pride of place in homes, offices and hotels and a national boost is necessary.”

The Colombo National Museum’s collection of dumbara designs are a mix of donations and purchases. The entire collection, however, is not meant for public viewing, given the restrictions in exhibiting space. “We do our best to enable public access through our temporary exhibitions from time to time,” says the DG. The collection also facilitates research. They are important for the study of the use of colours, the distinct patterns of fauna and flora and other inherent weaving skills of master weavers.

An intense research on Dumbara craft by the Anthropology Department of the Colombo National Museum is underway. The community-based research in the traditional weaving villages of Dumbara which was to commence last year was suspended due to the pandemic. Museum officials hope to recommence the project once normalcy returns.

“Today the craft has been diversified and has added handbags, file covers, pencil holders etc. to its portfolio. Yet, unless the craftspeople are given a sense of security including assured markets locally and globally, this craft will not last up to the next generation,” remarks Manoj Hettiarachchi. The Museum’s anthropology curator. Museum officials encourage the public to add to their Dumbara collection.

‘An investment in the national interest, such donated exhibits from private collections will be conserved for posterity. They are treated against possible insect attacksand other hazards.’

The dumbara patterns were perfected by men and women of the kinnaraya caste, notes Ananda Coomaraswamy in his work,
Mediaeval Sinhalase Art. The historian also mentions ballads known as kinnara kavi sung by ancient dumbara weavers.

The labour-intensive fibre-production process is described by Coomaraswamy in his book. The rounded green leaves of the hana plant are gathered and scraped against a log known as the niyanda poruwa with a wooden tool (ge-valla) shaped like a spoke shave. ‘This scraping removes the fleshy part of the leaf, leaving the white fibre, which is oiled and brushed and then ready for use almost immediately. Part of the material is left white, the rest dyed red, yellow or black.’

As Coomsraswamy describes: ‘the red colour is obtained by boiling the fibre with patangi wood, korakaha leaves and gingelly oil or seeds; the yellow from a decoction of venivel; the black with the help of gall nuts, aralu and bulu.’ Added to these three traditionally used natural colours mentioned by Coomaraswamy are an assortment of others including green and blue sourced by artificial dyes.

The loom is described as a ‘low horizontal contrivance’ and the weaver squats on the mat itself, supported by a few flat logs between it and the ground. The pattern is picked up with the weaver’s lathe (vema); this lathe, having an eye at one end, serves as a bodkin called heda liya with which to draw the weft threads through the warp.’

Perfectly plain mats are called pannam kalala, Coomaraswamy documents. These are usually decorated with birds, as is usually are kurullu kalala. Those with a variety of patterns are veda kalala or veda peduru. Among the notable dumbara patterns are toran-petta, tarava,tani-vel iruwa, depota lanuwa, taraka petta, pannam petta, tunpota lanuwa, del geta lanuva and mal gaha. Animal patterns of birds, deer, cobra and elephants were also popular.

Pic credit: Department of National Museums

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When I met Imran Khan, cricketer

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by Zanita Careem

I recall meeting Imran Khan, the former cricketer after his victory of the World Cup during his visit to Sri Lanka, a few years ago. I met him whilst he was here on an invitation extended by the Chairman of Sifani Jevellers Shaabdeen The young cricketer at that time appeared so much more reserved. circumspect and formal. Handsome indeed, Imran Khan was the cynosure of all eyes among the women at that function.

Last week he was in Sri Lanka as the Prime Minister of Pakistan on an official visit on the invitation extended by the PM Mahinda Rajapakse and President of Sri Lanka Gothabaya Rajapakse..

During the interview, at that time he spoke with disarming candour about the many twists and turns of his life journey as a cricketer . Even at that time, he was adored by millions of fans,His charismatic personality was admired by many in the cricketing field where he was famous for his blistering bowling. He also spoke about his greatest success as a fund-raiser, establishing the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and research centre in 1996 and a college in 2008 with funds raised.

He was recognised as a great ,cricketer, a compassionate philanthropist, his charismatic personality is recognised, well beyond the borders of Pakistan. Meeting the former Captain of the Pakistan cricket team who defeated England in 1992 at the World Cup final is still etched in my memory.

Imran’s was raised in an upper middle class family with an engineer father and home maker mother. He did not pursue politics as a career until his late 40s. Before politics his passion was international cricket. An iconic cricketer. Khan dominated the cricketing World in the 1980s and 1990s. Oxford educated. he spent most of his time overseas. He was well liked figure in Pakistan, due to his boyish charm and sportsmanship. To millions of Pakistanis, Khan was their leader who led the nation to victory.

Today Imran’s journey to the corridors of Parliament was very interesting. He is articule, and used his voice for people’s issues. He increasingly asserted that his decision to enter politics was for the people not for fame, money or power. The huge fan following that Imran amassed were the urban younger citizens. His fiery speeches, his leadership skills for dealing with some of the contentions issues are remarkable. He saw a political vacuum in the theoretical state of Pakistan and made all efforts to make it a better alternative to the existing system after he took over power as the Prime Minister.

He arrived in Sri Lanka for a two day official visit, this Colombo trip was only Imran’s second foray since becoming PM.Imran Khan is the first head of state since the pandemic to visit Sri Lanka. During his two day stay he had many fruitful bilateral meetings with the higher officials in Sri Lanka.

The attention and the warmth showered on Imran Khan marks a definite turn in the relationship between Sri Lanka and Pakistan

The exuberant welcome Imran recieved in Sri Lanka reflects the love, the people and the cricket fans had for him. Billboards and flags ffluttered along the routes and within the city of Colombo focussed the cordial welcome.

In Sri Lanka ,his speeches reflected the oratorical skiis. His ability to entice enthuiastic and spontaneous responses that sesulted in standing ovation at the few meetings he chaired. His eloquent language of English with a Britist aacent, well known and admired by many.

His ability to project to thousands of people , without effacing their differenes make him not only a rare and articulate politician, but an outstanding Prime Minister. Meanwhile a press release from .Sthe embassy of Pakistan stated

The charismatic captain led Pakistan to its World Cup victory in 1992. Mr Khan, struggled for years to turn popular support into electoral gains. He launched his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in 1996. His party won the General Election 2018 and he became Prime Minister of Pakistan after a political struggle of 22 years.

Imran Khan’s economic vision for Pakistan is alluring. Khan is working hard to improve the lives of the poor. He promised a “new Pakistan” in the 2018 General Election. Imran made pledges with the nation for a uniform education system, launching of a health card scheme, elimination of corruption, improving the tax culture, self-sustainability of Pakistan, generating employment opportunities, strengthening of the federation, bringing reforms in police, boosting investment and tourism, strengthening agriculture sector by imposing an agriculture emergency, and protecting women population. He is on right track to fulfill his promises with the nation.

The Government of Prime Minister Imran Khan has handled the economic impact of pandemic with effective strategies and emerged successful during tough times. Year 2020 has known to be a tale of challenges globally, but for Pakistan, under the leadership of PM Imran Khan, it has proved as a “story of success and development” even during the coronavirus pandemic.

Year 2020 narrates a journey of stable economy, numerous development and welfare projects, and remarkable achievements at foreign policy front. Khan’s government has significant achieved major milestones during 2020 along with a set of the Prime Minister’s New Year resolutions for year 2021.

Khan is not only achieving at domestic front but also fighting for the betterment of globe. Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) 75th session, highlighted global issues including climate change, money laundering, pandemic, Islamophobia and human rights violations. He called upon the UN to play its role to combat racism and ensure implementation of its own resolution for global peace and stability.

Imran khan is a philanthropist. He is gifted with natural leadership and the capacity to accumulate great wealth. He has great talent for management in all walks of life, especially in business and financial matters, where he contributes the greater vision, purpose, and long-range goals. He understands the material world, and intuitively knows what makes virtually any enterprise work. Business, finance, real estate, law, science, publishing, and the management of large institutions are among the vocational fields that suit Imran best. He is naturally attracted to positions of influence and leadership, politics, social work, and teaching are among the many other areas where his abilities are shining.

PM Imran Khan’s political struggle of twenty two years can be compared with a thrilling test cricket match, full of twists and turns. After a long struggle, he succeeded in the 2018 General Election. PM Imran Khan’s Government has managed to perform well in the foreign affairs arena as well. Critical in this regard has been Khan’s personal charisma on the international stage and close coordination with the country’s all institutions.

During the 1990s, Khan also served as UNICEF’s Special Representative for Sports and promoted health and immunization programmes in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand. While in London, he also works with the Lord’s Taverners, a cricket charity. After retirement from cricket and before joining politics Khan focused his efforts solely on social work. By early nineties, he had founded the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust, a charity organisation bearing the name of his mother, Mrs. Shaukat Khanum. As the Trust’s maiden endeavour, Khan established Pakistan’s first and only cancer hospital, constructed using donations and funds exceeding $25 million, raised by Khan from all over the world.

Khan also established a technical college in the Mianwali District during April 2018 called Namal College. It was built by the Mianwali Development Trust (MDT), and is an associate college of the University of Bradford. Imran Khan Foundation is another welfare work, which aims to assist needy people all over Pakistan. It has provided help to flood victims in Pakistan.

President Rajapaksa is familiar with Pakistan where he attended number of military courses in Pakistan military training institutions. While Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has also deep association with Pakistan. Imran khan has visited Sri Lanka on number of occasions and has a great fan following in the Island Country. The upcoming visit of Prime Minister Khan will be a great opportunity for leaders of both countries to make bilateral relations meaningful and beneficial for people of Sri Lanka and Pakistan which would further strengthen the relations between the two friendly nations.

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