[APPRECIATIONS - (12-02-2019)] | Daily News

[APPRECIATIONS - (12-02-2019)]

Bertie Gunasekara

An ever-alert creative spirit

His primary professional preoccupation; over a good part of his long, multifaceted career; was the registering of images viewed through his versatile lens.

In turn, Bertie Gunasekera's own facial image remains deeply etched in the hearts and minds of his extensive host of friends, relations, associates, and colleagues.

A grey moustache, and a somewhat unkempt grey goatee, surround his lips—which always seemed half-open as it they were perpetually ready to into a smile.

I dwelt slightly on this personal detail, since this provides an apt entry, even to a very brief note on his character evolution.

As far as I can remember, his appearance continued to project a sunny optimism. But, for quite a while he had to wrestle severely, with various obstacles that hindered his progress. Attempts to topple had to be strongly resisted challenges had to be met and satisfactorily overcome.

Though these struggles would have deeply scarred his sensitive and youthful soul, such adverse circumstances could never defeat his defiant spirit.

After his university studies, he could not help but plunge headlong into the exacting fray of worldly existence. (Incidentally, the reputed revolutionary filmmaker Dharmasena Pathiraja was his university contemporary).

In his youthful exploratory phase, his foremost goal was setting down into a steady job in the course of his restless search; way back in 1967, Bertie entered into the domain of Art, as the Associate script writer of Sugathapala Senarath Yapa's Hantane Kathawa (The story of Hantane).

As history would have it, the script of this film, was the first ever Sinhala film script to be translated into English. (I had the privilege of creating this pioneering English version that was serialised in the Ceylon Observer). Eventually, he opted for the profession of photography.

In 2019, Bertie Gunasekara completed the 35th year in his chosen profession. But, with relentless and incontrovertible finality, destiny mercilessly decided that 2019 should be the year for him to bid adieu—both to his favoured profession and to life itself—that he had so warmly embraced, relished, and experienced with undiminished zest.

His achievements in the field of photography have been amply celebrated. Sri Lanka's Art council paid him an exceptionally high tribute by appointing him chairman of its photography sub-committee.

A valued volume was brought out in 2014, to felicitate him on the occasion of his reaching the 30th year in his professional life. I have witnessed to my utter amazement the meticulous care, concentrated attention, detailed planning—and above all—the utmost commitment Bertie Gunasekera lavished to achieve perfectionism in his phogoraphic efforts.

Most Art enthusiasts, who are quite likely to be familiar with his professional life, may not know very much about the eminently appealing aspects of the personality of this exceptionally, interesting human being.

He cherished friendship and possessed a rare gift to deepen any important get-together, entertaining or joyous. As an admirable raconteur, he was full of stories, anecdotes and tales, which he could go on narrating if the circumstances demanded for hours. Occasionally, some of these tales could teeter precariously on the verge of risque. But, he was always sensitive about the proper measure.

His eminently praiseworthy attitude to his own family, is, both exceedingly admirable and undoubtedly exemplary. As a single parent, Bertie Gunasekara had the tremendous responsibility of bringing up his motherless children, as a sacred trust. Prioritizing the interests of the children under his care and protection, the personal sacrifices he made were overwhelmingly impressive.

He disposed of some of his highly esteemed assets, perhaps with a far-sighted perspective of the future of his children. He adapted his professional obligations and responsibilities in a manner that would enable him to pay undivided attention to the needs of the children. Mutual friends have told me, in a tone of hushed deference, how Bertie was both mother and father to his children.

He contributed, in his own way, to the massive Buddhist Missionary services of Ven. Weragoda Sarada Nayaka Maha Thera, the Chief Prelate in Singapore. His Singapore Buddhist Meditation Centre is a reputed institution, disseminating the eternal Buddha word in print and electronic media, world wide.

Bertie Gunasekera passed away swiftly at the age of 79, like the wind. I feel that the merits Bertie has acquired would have enabled him to step right into the path to Nibbana, immediately after his departure.

Dr. Edwin Ariyadasa


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