Archive for the ‘Arts’ Category

You can see it; the ‘fire’ in his photographs

December 1, 2015
A coffee table book, The Children of Eden – Tribute to Sri Lanka’s Wildlife, by Rajiv Welikala, will be launched on December 5 
Young tuskers (c) Rajiv Welikala

“I consider Sri Lanka as one of the last Edens left on earth and wildlife as its true children. So I want to make my maiden book a lasting tribute to the beauty of Sri Lanka’s natural heritage,” says Rajiv Welikala who will launch his coffee table book along with his wildlife photography exhibition on December 5.

“Children of Eden- a tribute to the wildlife of Sri Lanka”, the coffee table book contains 120 of the best images Rajiv has captured over 17 years.

Sleeping leopard on white sand

Sleeping leopard on white sand

The images cover a vast variety of species, from the more charismatic and iconic members of Sri Lankan wildlife such as leopards, elephants, bear, and whales to smaller members such as birds and lizards. A few landscape shots illustrate what this Eden looks like.

Rajiv’s special interest in tuskers is evident as the book features more than 10 photos showcasing some of Sri Lanka’s magnificent tuskers such as the elusive Wilpattu tusker ‘Megha’, Kawdulla’s giant tusker ‘Enigma’ and the late Siyambalangamuwa tusker.

The young tuskers and playful elephant calves are truly Children of Eden.

We see some fine wildlife photography regularly. So how do you take a photograph that still impresses? Writing the Foreword to ‘Children of Eden”; promoter of Sri Lanka’s wildlife and well known wildlife photographer Gehan De Silva Wijeyeratne answers this question.

Who is more curious ? The Owl or the photographer?

“It is about light, composition and the right moment. Some things never change and the elements of what makes an arresting image stand true.

Whilst technology and the strengthening of disposable incomes may make access to photographic opportunities more democratic, great photography still comes from ‘fire’–the fire within the soul, one that burns intensely, with a passion for nature and a commitment to seek, to wait, and to take great photographs”.

Mr. Wijeyeratne adds that the answer to the above question lies within images of Rajiv’s boook.

A Thomian, Rajiv says, “Joining the college’s Wildlife Society was a turning point in my life, which would determine my lifestyle and passion to this day.

The club would organise a camping excursion to a national park every term holiday. I had always wanted to capture the moments I experienced in the wild and show it to my family back home. This motivated me to start photography at a young age.”

Rajiv received his first camera, a second hand Yashica when he was 13. “I practised and honed my skills in photography over the years, as well as gradually upgrading my camera equipment thanks to hand me downs from my father.

I try to learn from the work of seasoned photographers, but most ideas come about by trial and error. Every trip into the wild teaches me something new, and I firmly believe that we never stop learning,” says Rajiv.

He also advises the new generation who aspire to be wildlife photographers to think differently and try out new ways to capture those moments in the wild.

However, the welfare of the wildlife must come first and it is important not to disturb the animal. Follow wildlife photography ethics even if it means compromising the best photo opportunity, Rajiv advises.

Eurasian Hopooe - You can sense the puff of dust as it dust bathes

Eurasian Hopooe – You can sense the puff of dust as it dust bathes

Many photographers rarely take the effort to describe their interesting experiences in the wild, but Rajiv shares them through his blog .

The book will also feature many interesting anecdotes and stories of Rajiv’s experiences, adventures and encounters throughout the years, which makes interesting reading for wildlife enthusiasts and casual readers alike.

The book launch and exhibition of the ‘Children of Eden’ will be held on December 5 from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Harold Peiris Gallery, Lionel Wendt. The exhibition is open to the public.



Seated bear in Yala

Seated bear in Yala

HI RES - Megha - An elusive Wilpattu Tusker - Rajiv's favorite Tusker photo

Majestic and wild: ‘Megha’ – The elusive Wilpattu Tusker

Rajiv Welikala

Rajiv Welikala


Sri Lankans star in Hollywood epic

August 30, 2015
Where humans failed, our rilawas succeeded


Although human Sri Lankans have failed to take leading roles in Hollywood a film composed entirely of Sri Lankans has now entered the history books and the actors are our closest cousins, our own rilawas, the endemic toque macaques (Macaca sinica).
The epic story of a monkey troop living in Polonnaruwa, captured in the Disney film Monkey Kingdom, was released in Sri Lanka on August 21.

Description: Dr. Jane Goodall, Disneynature Ambassador and .Founder, The Jane Goodall Institute with Dr. Wolfgang Dittus, Scientific Consultant, in the Monkey Kingdom.  Wolfgang has been studying the macaque monkeys of Sri Lanka for nearly 50 years. His and Jane Goodall's study at Gombe are the longest running studies of wild primates. For the film, Wolfgang helped select the monkey characters and decipher their behaviour. His decades of research were invaluable to the making of Monkey Kingdom

Description: Dr. Jane Goodall, Disneynature Ambassador and .Founder, The Jane Goodall Institute with Dr. Wolfgang Dittus, Scientific Consultant, in the Monkey Kingdom. Wolfgang has been studying the macaque monkeys of Sri Lanka for nearly 50 years. His and Jane Goodall’s study at Gombe are the longest running studies of wild primates. For the film, Wolfgang helped select the monkey characters and decipher their behaviour. His decades of research were invaluable to the making of Monkey Kingdom


Monkey Kingdom’s main characters are lead female Maya, a low-caste being, her newborn son Kip, the troop’s alpha male Raja, a trio of high-status females called The Sisterhood, and Kumar, a newcomer wishing entrance to the tribe. The struggle of mother Maya brings tears to viewers’ eyes.

The monkeys’ struggle for power is also well documented in the movie, adding some adventure, and viewers may spot some recent political parallels. The monkey clan inhabit Castle Rock. Raja controls the group with an iron fist. A new team using strategic tactics lure the rock’s inhabitants into the jungle and defeat Raja’s party. Raja himself loses the troops’ leadership to Kumar, who plays monkey politics wisely, building relationships with many monkeys. This will surely make flashes of comparison of recent political events in Sri Lanka although the film’s production began three years ago.

Monkey Kingdom is the sixth theatrical release for Disneynature and cost $16.4 million. Disney brought world-acclaimed nature filmmaker Mark Linfield to Sri Lanka to direct it. The film crew spent 1,000 days on location, the most time spent in the field for any Disneynature feature film, according to Linfield.

It was, however, resident primatologist Dr. Wolfgang Dittus’ research that made this movie possible. German-born Dr. Dittus has been studying macaques in Sri Lanka for nearly 50 years, the longest-running monkey study of all time.His research proved invaluable to the film crew. His knowledge of the monkeys in Polonnaruwa allowed the filmmakers to understand their social structure, day-to-day lives and individual personality traits. As a result, they could choose their “stars” wisely and approach filming in an informed way, telling the troops’ true story as it unfolded.

Furthermore, the fact that Dr. Dittus and his researchers have been studying the Polonnaruwa monkeys for almost five decades gave filmmakers access to the animals that would not have been possible with monkeys who were not familiar with humans.
“Our many decades of past research invested in these toque macaques paid dividends for the production,” Dr. Dittus said.
“Not only do we know these monkeys intimately but the monkeys were perfectly at ease and behaved normally when the film crew pointed a camera at them. They treat us as a normal part of their environment, like a deer or a tree.”

Dr. Jane Goodall, the world’s authority on chimpanzees, who also visited the Polonnaruwa site, says the mother-child relationship in primates always inspired her. “When Maya first has her little boy Kip, we see how difficult it is for her to care for him when, at any moment, the dominant females can just take him away and there’s nothing she can do about it,” she said.

The movie features breathtaking scenery captured with high-quality equipment. Taya Diaz, a nature documentary maker who helped make the BBC’s film, Temple Troop, also based on the Polonnaruwa monkeys points out that Sri Lanka an abundance of wildlife that can make to the big screen and our film-makers need to look for them.

“It is important to see nature through a scientific eye and make these kind of movies that can help to bring out the value of Sri Lanka’s nature,” Diaz said.

Monkey Kingdom has already been nominated for some awards.

Monkeys boost Lanka as a  nature destination
Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau Chairman, Rohantha Athukorala hopes the worldwide release of Monkey Kingdom will be a massive boost to Sri Lanka’s visibility due to “screen-based” marketing, where tourism in a country featured in a popular movie increases due to movie enthusiasts visiting the original location.The tourism bureau used the launch of the film in the United States in April to promote Sri Lanka there, and did the same in China.Mr. Athukorala said the bureau was pursuing the possibility of setting up a “Monkey Kingdom” in the Disneyland Park in Shanghai.The next major release is in France, in November, and the bureau will launch a drive there promoting Sri Lanka as a nature destination.These events clearly indicate the importance of wildlife to Sri Lanka. Often seen as pests, the monkeys are helping to promote Sri Lanka. Environmentalists point out this alone should be a reason for protecting the remaining wildlife habitats of Sri Lanka, which could attract more tourists, bringing in much-needed foreign exchange.Monkeys invade houses, becoming a nuisance because of the fault of the humans themselves. Dr. Dittus warns people not to offer food to monkeys and not to even throw food out if monkeys are hanging around as food and water will attract them to homes, leading people to regard them as a threat or nuisance.

Description: Two monkeys catch some termites during the monsoon

Description: Two monkeys catch some termites during the monsoon

Description: Wolfgang Dittus, Scientific Consultant with Chameera Pathirathne, and Sunil Rathnayake, Scientific Assistants, observe some monkeys in the ruins. Wolfgang has been studying the macaque monkeys of Sri Lanka for nearly 50 years. His and Jane Goodall's study at Gombe are the longest running studies of wild primates. For the film, Wolfgang helped select the monkey characters and decipher their behaviour. His decades of research were invaluable to the making of Monkey Kingdom

Description: Wolfgang Dittus, Scientific Consultant with Chameera Pathirathne, and Sunil Rathnayake, Scientific Assistants, observe some monkeys in the ruins. Wolfgang has been studying the macaque monkeys of Sri Lanka for nearly 50 years. His and Jane Goodall’s study at Gombe are the longest running studies of wild primates. For the film, Wolfgang helped select the monkey characters and decipher their behaviour. His decades of research were invaluable to the making of Monkey Kingdom

Character: Kip

Character: Kip

Description: Oliver Goetzl, Field Producer, setting a remote camera in a sloth bear cave.

Description: Oliver Goetzl, Field Producer, setting a remote camera in a sloth bear cave.

Photo courtesy: DisneyNature. Published on SundayTimes on 30.08.2015

Patience, passion and moments like these

May 28, 2015
With his camera as his constant companion, Riaz Cader’s love for wildlife has taken him places. Catch his maiden photography exhibition Eye on the Wild, on May 30, 31 at the Lionel Wendt 
Time to frolic: A leopard on the white sands of Wilpattu

Time to frolic: A leopard on the white sands of Wilpattu

Riaz Cader has followed his passion for wildlife from a young age. Taking his camera whenever he travelled to Sri Lanka’s wildernesses either for leisure or for work, his collection of photos has grown over the years and he felt the time was right for an exhibition of wildlife photography. His maiden effort ‘Eye on the Wild’ will take place this week.

“Through ‘Eye on the Wild’ I want to showcase the diversity of wildlife and natural landscapes of Sri Lanka,” Riaz said enthusiastically. “A diverse collection of images ranging from encounters with gigantic Blue Whales in the ocean, leopards on the white sands at Wilpattu to the elusive Sri Lanka Spurfowl in the lowland rainforests of Sinharaja to crocodile in Colombo will be on display at ‘Eye on the Wild,” he added.

Leopards, Sloth bears and elephants are Riaz’s favourite photographic subjects as he particularly enjoys travelling to the dry-zone jungles like Yala and Wilpattu. These charismatic larger iconic animals are prominently featured in the exhibition, but all the other groups of wildlife too are well represented as evident in the photographs that Riaz exclusively shared with the Sunday Times.

‘Eye on the Wild’ will also be a special treat for bird lovers as Riaz has followed the winged creatures in their different habitats. Sea bird photos are a speciality as these birds are not a particular favourite of many photographers. A difficult-to- capture Spurfowl chick with its mother too will be among the exhibits as is a mysterious Barn Owl photographed at night near Arugam Bay.

Riaz has a special interest in photographing marine mammals and says he was lucky to have a rare encounter with a pair of Killer Whales last year. ‘We were heading toward a Blue Whale when I saw a large dorsal fin emerge from the ocean’s surface. I knew it was an Orca also known as Killer Whale. It was a male and soon the female joined him to swim together giving us a spectacular show,” Riaz recalled the rare moment. Riaz was also lucky to photograph a super pod of Sperm Whales with hundreds of giants. “It was really an amazing moment to see splashing gentle giants everywhere in the ocean,” Riaz said. He has also captured a photo of a giant Blue Whale mother with her baby showing the gentler side of these true giants.

All’s clear bro: Common skinks – Wilpattu


Giving advice to those who would like to photograph marine mammals, Riaz suggests keeping the camera standby on settings to capture high speed moments as the movement of the marine mammal could be sudden, unexpected and often lasts only few seconds. He also advises aiming a little bit toward the moving direction, so the delay in clicking is compensated. As the salty environment in the ocean is not good for sophisticated camera equipment, Riaz suggests keeping your camera in a dry bag when not in use.

To complete all the major wildlife groups, ‘Eye on Wild’ also features several reptiles ranging from an egg-laying Olive-Ridley turtle in Panama to common skinks looking out from a tree cavity in Wilpattu. Riaz also followed the elusive crocodile living in hiding in the Wellawatte canal in Colombo. Riaz also loves to photograph the wilderness and his landscapes of Horton Plains, Wilpattu, Wasgamuwa and Yala are quite breathtaking. A striking photograph of a rainbow above the tree line of Yala reveals his artistic eye.

A beauty of the night: A Barn Owl captured at Arugam Bay

A beauty of the night: A Barn Owl captured at Arugam Bay

There are also 10 black and white fine art prints on display at the exhibition. “I felt that these images had more impact and gave out more definition in black and white without the distraction of colour. The behaviour of the animal or the portrait (for the close-ups such as that of the leopard, elephant and sloth bear) can also be seen in greater detail in this format and it adds some variety to the images on display rather than having only colour prints,” he explains.

There will be around 100 photographs on display at ‘Eye on the Wild’. The exhibition will be open to the public at the Lionel Wendt Art Gallery on May 30 and 31. Entrance is free.

Croc comes to town: An elusive crocodile in the Wellawatte canal



I spy with my little eye a bird!

January 24, 2015

‘Wild in Ruins’, Lester Perera’s exhibition celebrates both wildlife and archaeological sites. This article was published on 31st of August 2014.

Well known wildlife artist and leading naturalist Lester Perera is ready with his next exhibition of wildlife art under the theme ‘Wild in Ruins’. Among the colourful paintings of birds using watercolours and acrylics, the exhibition contains black and white ‘ink and pen’ drawings. At a glance, they seem to showcase archaeological sites in Sri Lanka, but a closer look will reveal the birds that perfectly blend into the ruins. There are kingfishers perched on top of ancient korawakkgala, the owl in wata da geya, an Indian Pitta in the ruins of Polonnaruwa- hence the theme ‘Wild in Ruins’. Lester says he wanted to promote birding in Heritage Sites through this exhibition while also highlighting the importance to step up conservation of Sri Lanka’s wildlife, before human activities ruin them. In a colour sketch the artist has shades of different colour to bring life to a painting, but in black and white, the artist has to use different shades of the same colour to give depth to the drawing, which needs lots of patience and skill. “Drawing wildlife in black and white is more difficult, but I enjoy it. It is like a meditation that brings me enormous personal pleasure,” Lester says. This is Lester’s 8th exhibition of wildlife art. With almost 30 years’ experience as a birdwatcher, Lester is undeniably one of the most accomplished bird artists in the region. He has exhibited his work at many international exhibitions and was invited by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for “Art on the wing” 2005 to exhibit his work along with the leading wildlife artists in Europe at the Maclaurin Gallery in Scotland.

He annually donates his work to the Oriental Bird Club of the UK to be auctioned at the British Bird Watching Fair held in Leicestershire, the proceeds of which are used for significant bird related conservation work in the Orient. “I’m already framed as a ‘Bird Artist’, but I also wanted to prove I’m versatile and I can take up the challenge of drawing other things,” says Lester explaining why he has chosen to focus more on habitats this time – particularly archaeological sites. As a renowned naturalist, Lester points out that people need to enjoy nature as a whole when they go out into the wild. “Other than birds, leopards or elephants – there are so many things to observe when people go out into a forest. Simple things such as the fallen leaves on the forest floor in different stages of decay can be something unique to explore,” added Lester, who is critical of the behaviour of visitors to wildlife parks who chase behind animals like leopards in a crazy effort to photograph them. It is not easy to become a wildlife artist in Sri Lanka as there is very little assistance from the state and no proper government run Art Gallery that can be used by the budding artists to showcase their talents, points out Lester who feels it is high time the State played a more active role in fostering the arts. “Wild in Ruins” will be at the Harold Peiris gallery of the Lionel Wendt on September 6 and 7  of 2014 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wild in Ruin - Indian Pitta (Black & White) Wild in Ruin - Owl (in Black & White) Wild in Ruin - A kingfisher (Black & White)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wildlife Diaries- Memoirs from the wilderness

October 23, 2013

“Rajiv is different to the new crop of wildlife photographers that Sri Lanka is producing. Firstly he doesn’t concentrate only on the national parks. Secondly he is deeply concerned about conservation,” says veteran wildlife photographer Namal Kamalgoda of Rajiv Welikala who is preparing for his maiden wildlife photographic exhibition “Wildlife Diaries: Memoirs from the Sri Lankan Wilderness”.

Back to back - the young tuskers of Kalawewa herd

Back to back – the young tuskers of Kalawewa herd

Armed with his camera, Rajiv has braved wildernesses across the country, been chased by elephants while trying to photograph tuskers in Kalawewa and once had a narrow escape in an encounter with a bear in Lunugamwehera while on foot. But he is undeterred in his passion for bringing out the true beauty of Sri Lanka.

Rajiv has a passion for photographing tuskers. He believes documenting them is the first step towards protecting these gentle giants before they all vanish. The majestic tusker known as ‘Medha’ (weather god in Sinhala) hidden in a jungle patch in Wilpattu is his favourite tusker photo. “We had to wait over 15 minutes as many vehicles passed the spot even without noticing the majestic tusker taking shelter in the jungle. Slowly but surely the tusker started coming out. I captured this image at the right moment, when a beam of sunlight hit the side of his face, giving this amazing picture,” he recalls. The photograph captures the sense of mystery and awe the tusker inspires, and the landscape Wilpattu is famous for, he adds.

Photos of several tuskers showing different characteristics will be part of the exhibition. “I like to focus on locations outside national parks to search for tuskers especially in the North Central and Wayamba Provinces. The best time of day is evening, roughly between 4.30-5.30 p.m. which I like to call “Magic Hour” where the light is golden and optimum for photography,” Rajiv revealed. Rajiv Welikala

But Rajiv’s love for nature goes beyond tuskers as the over 70 such photographs exhibited will reveal- birds, mammals and reptiles among

his subjects.

While he loves to spend time in the wild, he points out that wildlife is all around us and one does not necessarily need to look to far-off jungles to photograph wild animals. Even closer to Colombo, there are many locations which are a haven for a multitude of species. Home gardens provide opportunities to capture photos of birds and other creatures, says Rajiv showing us a photo of a Brown-headed Barbet he had taken at his grandparents’ garden in Bambalapitiya.

Nature is so diverse and full of surprises there is never a boring day if you learn to open your eyes and broaden your horizons, he says, pointing out that many wildlife enthusiasts looking only for leopards in sanctuaries such as Yala, totally ignore the other species found in plenty there.

Rajiv started wildlife photography at the age of 13 while at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia. He did his higher studies at the University of Wales and now aged 28 is currently reading for an MBA from the Cardiff Metropolitan University, while working at MAS Intimates as a merchandiser.

‘Wildlife Diaries – Memoirs from the Sri Lankan Wilderness’ will be held from October 26-27 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Lionel Wendt Gallery, Colombo 7.

The whisper - sambur family

The whisper – sambur family

Ulama - the Devil Bird or Forest Eagle Owl from Wilpattu

Ulama – the Devil Bird or Forest Eagle Owl from Wilpattu

Megha - An elusive Wilpattu Tusker - Rajiv's favorite Tusker photo

Megha – An elusive Wilpattu Tusker – Rajiv’s favorite Tusker photo

Realising a mission and passion together

January 19, 2013

Two wildlife enthusiasts �Dr. Janaka Gallangoda and Nadika Hapuarachchi present ‘Life: A Journey into the Wilds of Sri Lanka’, a coffee table book and exhibition�

By Malaka Rodrigo

When wildlife lovers campaigned in 2005 against a hydropower plant at Bomuru Ella in Nuwara Eliya, among them were a medical officer attached to the Nuwara Eliya hospital and an IT specialist working in Colombo. Though in unrelated fields, their common passion for environment conservation and photography made them good friends and they went on many field expeditions together sometimes combing leech infested forests past midnight in the freezing cold.

January 17 will be a special day for both Nadika Hapuarachchi and Dr. Janaka Gallangoda as they launch their coffee-table book “Life: A Journey into the Wilds of Sri Lanka” which will be followed by a three-day photographic exhibition.

The hard cover coffee-table book has some 159 wildlife photographs captured with their technical skill and artistic sensitivity.�

The cover photo of the books says it all- a lone Purple Heron on a skeletal tree against the backdrop of a tranquil rainbow. Revealing the story behind the photo, Nadika said the photograph was captured at Kumana Villu a few years ago on a rainy evening. “It was pouring out there- the jeep tracks leading to Kumana were flooded. The rain threatened to ruin our photo opportunities, but when it ceased, there was a beautiful rainbow across the Kumana Villu. The lonely Purple Heron was just picture perfect against this backdrop and this single photo was worth the difficulties of the whole trip.”

Dr. Janaka’s favourite subject is birds though the book also highlights his other wildlife pictures. Having studied at Rahula College Matara and then graduated from Karapitiya Medical Faculty where he pursued his passion for nature in his leisure time, he was instrumental in forming the Nuwara Eliya Nature Protection Society (NEPS) while serving at the Nuwara Eliya Hospital. Together with like-minded activists, he went into the forests in Nuwara Eliya to save animals from the clutches of poachers. NEPS also held an annual photographic exhibition that helped him sharpen his photographic skills.�

Old Royalist Nadika is now the manager at E-Soft Computer Studies, Piliyandala branch and an active member of the Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle (WCSG). He too has been involved in many campaigns to expose wildlife rackets.

Nadika Hapuarachchi

‘Life: A Journey into the Wilds of Sri Lanka’ tries to convey an important conservation message by taking the public through a photographic journey highlighting the natural beauty of the landscapes and the extraordinary wealth of life forms found in Sri Lanka.�

The reader encounters the elusive leopard who is trying to cope with a noisy crowd of tourists at the Yala National Park, the juvenile Scops owl healed by humans and the splendour of daybreak at Horton Plains. Wildlife big or small has equal prominence – the photographs capture giant elephants to small flies mating.�

At the end of the book, the authors discuss certain conservation issues in detail- the problems due to unplanned tourism, snares, road kills, land-slides, forest fires, elephants captured from the wild etc. This makes it a book of different format as these issues are also the ones the duo are fighting in real life.
The book is dedicated to two doctors- Dr. Sanjweeva�Ranwella and Dr. Amith Munidradasa who both died young. “Dr. Ranwella and Dr. Munindradasa left a legacy of love towards nature and people that only a few can follow, so we wanted to dedicate our joint effort to them,” said Nadika.

A Juvenile Hawk Eagle eating a snake

The book will be launched on January 17 and the exhibition at the Harold Peiris Gallery will be open from the Jan. 18 to Jan. 20 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.� The book is priced at Rs.3,900 with a pre-publication price of Rs.3,400 until the 20th. More photographs from the book can be viewed at Online orders too can be placed�through the website.

Published on SundayTimes on 13.01.13

Painting with colours hidden in nature

January 12, 2013

The SHILPA 2012 – National Handicrafts Exhibition that was held at the end of 2012 had many interesting exhibits on display but this artist’s work merited closer attention from visitors due to its unique and innovative method of creations. Made using only wood- a collage of wooden chips and scraps, the works on show were eyecatching in their intricate composition.

“I have used wood scraps, wood chips and their dust to create this artwork,” the artist Udayanga Weerasinghe explained. “These are scraped using the normal ‘yathukete’ to get delicate wood scraps and wood chips. Using a ‘welikadadasiya’ (sand paper), I get the wood dust of different colouration which is then mixed with glue for this artwork,” he said.

The works are full of colour but Udayanga says these are all the natural colours of wood. “Each wood has its unique colours which I carefully select to get the suitable shade to give life to the creatures and background.” He opens a small bag and shows us fine scraps of wood. They are all different colours from black, red, orange, beige, brown to white. Black is from Ebony, red is from Pathengi wood, orange from Bakmee and yellow is from Jak – a few of the options he has.

The colour of the wood darkens from outer softwood toward the inner hardwood. “Kos lee alone can be used to get lots of different shades from yellow to orange,” he says. The timber of the Biling tree (Averrhoabilimbi) too is one of Udayanga’s favourite as it enables him to work with white.

“Wood scrapings and dust of about 60 trees has been used for this artwork,” said Udayanga pointing out the different kinds of woods used in designing the vibrant collage of Junglefowl fighting and the forested habitat. The collage also has a flowing river with rocky banks. “The water which is white is made using Billing tree scrapings which are then glued and the edges broken by hand to give a natural flowing effect,” explained Udayanga. He also used a billing wood that has been seasoned under mud for some time for the rocks. “When billing wood is submerged in mud over a period, it brings a nice ‘wairamwairam’ curvy design. I had used the same for the sky to get this effect,” Udayanga said.

Lichen that grows on the outer bark is also used. The decaying log in the ‘Junglefowl fighting’ work is naturally decaying wood. He pasted lichen on it to give a more natural look and Ebony dust mixed with glue to give depth to the hollow inside the log.
‘Weniwel’ dust which is greenish has been used for grass and foliage. For the trees, the weniwel dust has been used together with juice of some greenish leaves such as Manioc to get a darker shade of green.

While onlookers admire the work, he also shows some of his previous creations of bathing elephants, birds, Buddhist monuments, and even scenes from Colombo.

This craft was introduced to Sri Lanka about 35 years ago in the ’70s by Udayanga’s father Berty Weerasinghe. The Weerasinghe family from Badulla has mastered this method and made a living creating these works. Udayanga has already won six awards but says that he is disappointed when judges sometimes overlook his creations believing that paints has been used in the work.

With about six of the Weerasinghe families making a living out of this craft Udayanga is hopeful that if he gets support to expand his workshop, he can further develop this technique to bring out more creative designs. Udayanga can be contacted on 0713375968.

Published on SundayTimes on 06.01.2013 

The Junglefowl fight - a masterpiece made by using wood scrapes and wood dust

The Junglefowl fight – a masterpiece made by wood scrapes and wood dust

Raw materials used for the design

Raw materials used for the design