Faded walls come alive | Daily News


 

Faded walls come alive

Dasun Sameera Bambarandage with the Youth Group - Ambalantota
Dasun Sameera Bambarandage with the Youth Group - Ambalantota

We Sri Lankans have a long history when it comes to “art” on “walls”. May it be prehistoric cave arts which are not adequately researched on, or the world-famous fifth-century marvel Sigiriya frescoes, or the neo-classical Buddhist tradition art by Solias Mendis in Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya, the island has a colourful relationship with “art” and “heart” painted on “walls”.

Wave

The trending street art wave we are now experiencing in Sri Lanka is a turning point, not as a form of art maybe, but as a psychologically 360 degrees turn where we, as a society, are moving away from a negative social consciousness and towards a more positive communication with the country and the state. The youth who were losing hope in the government system owing to decades of let downs, are now in streets cleaning and beautifying the cities, rallying around a promising leadership and fresh hopes.

President commends the youth

While there is much social debate, both constructive and negative criticism on the dynamics of this expression of hope, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in a twitter message, commended the efforts of the young voluntary groups who dedicated their time and labour in beautifying their cities. The Daily News spoke to some of these young volunteers from all walks of life who contributed to this refreshing street art wave.

Trend creators

Dasun Sameera Bambarendage, a youth from Ambalantota, explained to Daily News how they used social media to create a voluntary group to carry out this beautification mission.

“This was never a personal attempt. We posted on Facebook requesting volunteers. When we got enough volunteers, we met and planned on what we should draw. We thought of joining this street art wave because it helps to make our country more beautiful. We entertained this idea for a long time, but we had to face many discouraging comments. Some people questioned us as to why we are doing this, when it is the responsibility of a government to keep the country clean. We had only one answer to all these negative comments. This is our country, and this country is our responsibility. We believed in ourselves and will continue to do so. We wanted this change. We wanted to make our cities and towns beautiful and clean. We also wanted to get rid of this poster campaigns, which is practically a disease. The work we carry out is our contribution to make this country the largest outdoor art gallery in the world,” Bambarendage said.

Jameema Raffaideen, an Advanced Level student of Badi-Ud-Din Mahmud Girls’ College in Kandy told the Daily News that she wants to make her country a beautiful place to live in.

“There were many reasons as to why I joined this street art wave. These walls looked horrible covered by posters. But now, we want to stand before these walls and take beautiful photos, thanks to this beautification. Another reason is that there is no ethnic or religious discrimination in this. That unity and coexistence is as beautiful as the art itself. I wanted to appreciate this new trend. So, I together with our school mates, started doing some paintings. This street art trend went viral in a short period, and it suggests that if we as a nation work together,” Jameema said.

Nisala Gihan, a founding member of the Pehesara Api Youth Association in Eheliyagoda said they selected a location that is nostalgically connected to their childhood to do their paintings.

“We selected the wall near the Parakaduwa Namaldeniya Samurdhi Bank on the Colombo – Ratnapura road. From the time we used to go to kindergarten and school, we used to pass this wall. We only remember it as an ugly wall full of posters. So, we wanted to change that. We thank our friends who work in Korea and several others for funding us to purchase paint materials. We believe this country cannot be turned great just by the government. Everyone needs to have the will to make this country beautiful and livable. It is we who need to change, and the rest would be quite easy.”

Sandeepa Maduranmini, a former member of the Youth Provincial Council for the Southern Province told the Daily News that their Weligama Youth Association thought of citizen involvement in city beautification could become a strong foundation for future changes. “We, as a group of youth, held a forum where we discussed using our energy and enthusiasm for the country’s betterment. Many people proposed city beautification as a viable option and our young members were enthusiastic about this project. Following discussions, we started to work on paintings at the Weligama Dharmapala Primary School. Then, we received many invitations to do paintings at other locations. When we started this project, we had no one but ourselves.”

Point of views

The Daily News approached the public to find out their personal views on this street art wave.

Rukmali Thakshila, a secretary at a private firm, speaking to us on the street art wave said artists should express peace, positivity and empathy in these wall arts. “It is nice to see Sri Lanka, as a tourism-based country, has started embracing street art. Other countries such as Thailand are using street art to convey beautiful and meaningful messages. Most of these artworks do not inflame your mind but bring happiness. I have noticed several artworks take us decades back, including the 30 years of war. ” she added.

Jeghan Prakash, a Sri Lankan expatriate in Canada said he was elated to see that people from all ethnicities, religions and social classes working together for a better country. “These artworks will make streets and cities beautiful. People get the chance to express their opinions with such creative work. I saw good teamwork among young boys and girls. People, irrespective of ethnicity, religion and language work together in these groups. I saw one Muslim woman and a Buddhist monk painting the same art. ”

More hopes

A well-known young installation artist, the creator of the Steel Eagle at Panchikawatta junction, Bhashitha Ranaweera told the Daily News that:

“We want to carry this trend one step ahead. We have already initiated this effort. Accordingly, we have started beach cleaning projects and with the garbage we collect, we are going to create some installation artworks, hopefully in front of Galle Face or the World Trade Center. In the first week of December, we completed cleaning the Lansiyawatta beach in Wattala,” Ranaweera said.


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