Alefiya sails to Byzantine in art
While some young women of 29 are tentatively stepping into careers
and others are still debating what to take on, Alefiya Akbarally has her
feet firmly set on the ground. Walking into her spacious office one
somehow expects to find an older person. It is, however, a pleasant
surprise to be met by an unassuming and enthusiastic young individual
full of ideas and inspirations.
"Creativity is my strength. Generally, I am a very colourful person
as my life is filled with very colourful items that inspire me. I am a
perfectionist, which at times can be good but at times bad because the
more you want to be perfect, the longer time it will take. I am very
sensitive and I love music," admits Alefiya, the founder of "Mosaic Art
Alefiya was born in Colombo. Her father, Inayet, is a barrister and
her mother, Farida, is a housewife. She has two siblings, Shabbir, a
doctor and Huzeafa, an engineer. The family owns a number of highly
successful companies under the Akbar Brothers Group.
A past pupil of St. Bridget's Convent, Colombo, Alefiya studied law
in university before dedicating herself to mosaic art and photography.
"Law never fulfilled my love for creativity. It does not give you the
flexibility to accomplish your wanderlust. Law is either a desk job or
it means working at court. I did not have that much of a passion to
Many years of Alefiya's childhood was spent in Australia. It was
during a brief holiday to Spain which changed her life forever. She got
the opportunity of being introduced to Antoni Gaudi, architect and the
pioneer of modern mosaics. Alefiya was stunned by the beauty of the
ancient art form.
Soon she was so enamored with her discovery that she was back on her
way to Australia to study and master the art. Mosaic is a very ancient
form of art going back to 4,000 years or more and through centuries,
developed from crude pebbled pavements to an art form with precise
geometric patterns and detailed scenes of people and animals.
It is a decorative art form using 'tesserae'- small pieces of glass,
marble, ceramic or stone - to create images or patterns. Its development
has passed through the Greco-Roman period. It made a prominent
resurgence in the Byzantine period (in Turkey).
Today examples can be seen in Spain at the Great Mosque at Cordoba
and the Alhambra Palace. At present, it is becoming increasingly popular
as a versatile contemporary craft. Mingling the ancient styles of mosaic
with traditional Sri Lankan art forms (like Kandyan, Polonnaruwa and
Anuradhapura art forms) Alefiya has tried out many novel designs in her
According to Alefiya high quality mosaic can be identified as
"Something beautifully laid out, cut well and manufactured very
precisely." It is also very important to avoid having cracks when
The first mosaic art Alefiya did was a mirror with a colourful
abstract design. It had taken her two whole years to perfect the art.
Today, she is able to explore endless variations of subjects from huge
wall murals to tables and tissue box holders as her ideas have
Her Mosaic art is available at Odel, Dwellings, Barefoot and
Hermitage. She had put up two exhibitions at the Hermitage Gallery in
2004 and Dwellings in 2005. It was after her first solo exhibition that
the idea of establishing her own company was born.
Her recent masterpieces is a 12' x 8' mural which she did recently
for the Overseas School of Colombo. It had been the artist's idea to
give an opportunity to one of the students of the school to help design
Thus, together with Olivia, Alefiya designed a beautiful three
panelled Mosaic to reflect the school's theme. Turtles, elephants, lotus
flowers and moonstones adored the mural, representing wisdom and Sri
Lankan culture. Alefiya is also very proud of her wall structures as it
took quite a lot of hard work to master the art form.
"I use to paint a lot in Acrylics and oils. When you are creative,
your creativity goes everywhere. But that does not mean that your
creativity is easy to apply to every single thing," she points out. "I
am also a photographer.
I shoot for Serendib, in-flight magazine for the SriLankan Airlines,
Serendipity, Leisure Times, Asiana and Harbus Newspaper (Harvard
Business School). I like photography because it is a scientific and
technical challenge to me." However she refused to be photographed
saying she does not like publicity.
Alefiya is past photography student of the London College of
Communication, University of the Arts, United Kingdom. She held several
photographic exhibitions and around 10 painting exhibitions.
She took part in the International Art Camp organized by the George
Keyt Foundation in 1999 and 'Nature Photography competitions' held in
2002 and 2003. She is also the President of the Rotary Club in Colombo.
There is something quite philosophic about her artistic designs. Not
surprisingly the outspoken young lady had been very preoccupied with the
idea of logic versus institution during her school days.
Some of her works had been directed towards this theme and leads the
viewers to question and reflect on various stereo typed issues.
"When a tourist or guest wants to see a collection of Sri Lanka's
art, what do we tell them? Climb Sigiriya, go to Kandy, and go see the
paintings in Dambulla... Where is the importance of the country's paint
to art? There is no proper gallery to showcase the country's art
tradition. We have a National Gallery but the permanent collection is
Fine arts should be given a better place," she stressed.
For the future, Alefiya says that she would like to take Mosaic to a
level where she would be able to export her work to countries around the
globe other than England. In terms of photography, she wishes to sign up
with good quality magazines of international standard. With her
dedication and perseverance she is well on the road to success.
Come to terms with dark side of life
LIFE:I have been a cancer patient since 1996 and have had four
recurrences within ten years. I am currently on Chemotherapy for the
third time. Hence I like to share some of my experiences with our female
readers and I hope and pray that it would assist them tremendously.
In my experience as a cancer patient I cannot deny the fact that a
cancer patient suffers physically as well as mentally.
I have been a regular visitor to the Cancer Hospital for the past ten
years and this is some thing that I have observed in others as well as
I was diagnosed of severe breast cancer when I was 28 years, married
and my daughter was just two years. I started losing weight steadily for
five years but I resolved that this could be due to stress and various
other reasons as I was employed at that time.
However, my left breast started swelling and when I examined it I
found a small lump little bigger than a marble. Initially I thought I
might be having Filaria as I have always suffered from Filaria since
childhood. Having consulted an Oncologist at the Cancer Institute,
I was immediately requested to come to the Cancer Hospital. An FNAC
was performed however it was negative. After the treatment was completed
I started working again until I gave up my job in the year 2000, as I
had to spend time with my daughter. However I noticed several nodes in
the left armpit the site of the mastectomy and I had slight pain.
Gradually the pain increased and one day I was unable to raise my arm. I
consulted a neuro surgeon and he requested me to obtain some X-Rays of
the arm and shoulder.
It was confirmed that I had malignant cells in the arm. When I had
the second recurrence I was 32 years. It was necessary for me to get
admitted at the Cancer Hospital for treatment and undergo surgery.
Emotionally though I was quite strong I was not happy about having a
mastectomy done at such a young age. I was rather conscious about the
cosmetic side of my physique. My naturally strong disposition and also
the support that I received from my doctors, relatives and friends
helped me tremendously in my battle with cancer.
Many patients fear radiotherapy. Hence I like to assure you that
radiotherapy when given externally is painless. You don't feel any thing
when the treatment is being given. It is important to keep the area that
is been treated dry as it might get infected. It is advisable to apply
baby powder on this area to keep it dry.
My advice to the patients is to maintain a positive attitude. Follow
the doctor's advice carefully. Be informed about your illness. As for me
I used to browse internet and search for all types of breast cancer and
the symptoms related to it.
I learned to read the blood report so when my blood count was low I
was aware of it. Eat nutritious food. Include a lot of leaves in your
diet. Drinking herbal porridge (kola kande) daily is very good. Engage
in activities that would refresh your mind. I refused to be an object
I attend to my normal household chores, sing and listen to Gospel
music, play the organ and I could do some fabric painting too. As I am a
voracious reader I spend a lot of time reading. I love writing too.
I conduct computer classes and English tuition at home. I even
completed a one year course in Professional English at the Open
I am presently following a course in Journalism. I endeavoured to
live a normal life. I don't even like when people try to sympathise with
me as a Cancer patient because I know that I am just a normal person
like any one else. For the past 10 years I have never been bed ridden, I
have always attended to my work by myself.
Even my neighbours see me going to the market soon after I return
from the hospital. I am a very independent person. The fact that I had
repeated recurrences didn't altar my life. After all some day we have to
go and when time comes everybody has to go. So why bother.
An interview with Obstetrician/Gynaecologist Colonel Dr. Sarath
Amarasekara on ovarian cancer.
Q. What is ovarian cancer?
A. An abnormal growth found in one of the ovaries or in both. And
this happens when the cells of the ovarian tissue undergo uncontrolled
and multiple divisions called a tumour or a growth. This can be
malignant which is very rapidly growing and it can spread very often. It
does not spread to other organs.
Q. Who are prone to ovarian cancer?
Blood vessel cells in Ovarian cancer
A. Women of any age group with ovaries will have a chance of getting
it. Statistics show that there is a higher risk of ovarian cancer
between the 40 and 60 age groups.
Q. What types of ovarian cancers are common?
A. There are different types of ovarian cancers classified according
to the cell origin. These different types of cells can give rise to
ovarian tumours spreading having different affects and prognosis.
Q. What are the common presentations?
A. Very often women feel a lump in the abdomen, irregular periods of
recent origin and occasional abdomen pain.
Q. Are ovarian cancers easy to detect early?
A. Ovarian cancers are difficult to diagnose in early stages. This is
one practical problem in treating early ovarian cancer. The first step
of diagnosis depending on the certain symptoms a patient complains of.
Q. What are the investigations?
Obstetrician/Gynaecologist Colonel Dr. Sarath Amarasekara
Picture by Sulochana Gamage
A. When the doctor suspects it's a ovarian cancer there are few tests
that gynaecologist embarks on. Blood tests such as CS125 and ESR can be
The suspicion could be followed up by doing a Abdominal Ultra Sound
Scan and very often a scan can detect a growth in the two ovaries. But
some cancers are very small and with ultra sound alone cannot be
Though ultra sound does not reveal cancer it could be followed by
certain blood tests. Further it could be confirmed or dispelled by doing
a Diagnostic Laparoscopy, a simple procedure.
Q. Does ovarian cancer spread?
A. Yes certainly, it can spread. The two ovaries are supplied with a
large amount of blood. Through blood the cancer cells can migrate to the
other ovary, urethra, rest of the pelvic organs and abdominal organs. It
also can spread to distant organs like lungs, brain and bones.
Q. What is the treatment?
A. If it's a bilingual or innocent tumour, simple removal of the
growth would be enough. If it is rapidly growing and spreading, the
treatment depends on the extent of the growth. Often simple surgery or
extensive surgery removing all cancer tissue would be necessary.
Q. What are the post-treatment follow up procedures?
A. If the tumour is a benign one, regular clinical examinations,
followed by Ultra Sound Scan and Laparoscope Assessment are necessary.
Q. What will be the prognosis of ovarian cancer?
A. Depends on at what stage the cancer was detected. If it was
detected early, obviously the prognosis is going to be very favourable
and even there will not be any risk involved. If detected late in the
progression and have spread to the rest of the organs, then the
prognosis is going to be poor.
Q. Is there any link between the combined oral contraceptive and
A. There is no prevalence of ovarian cancer associated with the use
of contraceptive pill. Therefore, we could say that the pill has a
protective effect against ovarian cancer.
Q. What will be the effect on sexual life?
A. Thats more of a psychological question. If the two ovaries are
removed that would reduce oestrogen levels. Her sexual desire may
diminish with that. At the same time it's not an anatomical disability.
There is no hindrance to indulge in sexual activity, but it is the
desire that might vain off.
Q. When to consult a doctor?
A. People who are in the middle age having symptoms that were
mentioned earlier or if their periods becomes irregular, if period cycle
and the pattern changes, such a person should see a doctor. If a woman
feels a lump in her abdomen or if she feels her abdomen is getting
bigger due to no reason she should consult a doctor.
A woman who has a family history of ovarian cancer should also be
aware that she runs a higher risk of having ovarian tumour.