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Sentinels of letters converged at enchanting port city

Galle Literary Festival 2007: Sunday Observer Jan 28 2007 

by Indeewara Thilakarathne and Ranga Chandrarathne

Nuzhat Abbas

Jagath Kumarasinghe, winner of the Gratien prize 2004

Perhaps, the most attractive venue during the festival was the Lunuganga, a living monument of Jeffery Bawa's architectural marvels. It was indeed, the most appropriate setting for the first couple of presentations made by Bawa expert Prof. David Robson and Bawa's disciple architect Channa Daswatte. The morning session at Lunuganga was moderated by Richard Simon.

Apart from well-known facts regarding the lives of the famous duo, Geoffrey and Bewis Bawa, Prof. Robson, for the first time, revealed some of the classified information regarding Bawa's early education in London with a brief description of his genealogy and how the Bawa family acquired the property Brief Bagatalle.

Prof. Robson is credited with producing the most authorized and comprehensive monograph on Geoffrey Bawa, the founder architect who defined the contours of tropical architecture in Sri Lanka.

David Robson

Maithree Wicremasinghe, Prof. Yasmine Gooneratne, and ‘Another Lady’ who completed Jane Austen’s unfinished novel Sanditon.

Madubhashini and Lal spoke about being an English writer while living in a country where the majority language is Sinhala.

Channa Daswatte, a trustee of the Lunuganga, is also one of Sri Lanka's foremost architect and as a follower of Bawa, made his contribution to the presentation. Channa, among other things, revealed how Bawa approached a problem with a cool heart and solved it in the most ingenuous way.

Channa's presentation was full of anecdotes. One of the interesting anecdotes was the one which showed Bawa's innate ability to analyze his prospective clients' personality where he described his prospective client in New Delhi, judging only by her correspondences, that she would be an extremely beautiful lady which was later proved accurate.

Channa also emphasized Bawa's philosophy of architecture where light and space mingled to celebrate life which is magnificently manifested in his works such as the Light House Hotel in Galle, Kandalama Hotel and Bawa's creations in the Lunuganga property.

The conversation of writing life featuring Prof. Yasmine Gooneratne was an insightful presentation which revealed fascinating facets of the childhood and the kith and kin that form the foundation for the flourishing creativity of the master writer.

Deepika Shetty, who moderated the session, should also be commended for bringing out life experience from the subject. Prof. Yasmine Gooneratne is an award winning writer who has published over 16 books including The Pleasure of Conquest which was short listed for the 1996 Commonwealth Writers' Prize.

Madhu Jaffrey, a woman of many parts, who is also a gastronomic expert revealed her experience as an expatriate revealing a rich and eventful childhood which she spent in India where cultures blended to form a universal identity.

At one stage of her presentation, she mentioned she played the Ramayana and Robin Hood suggesting the rich admixture of cultures and languages which form her rather complex identity. Madhu Jeffery is one of the world authorities on Indian food, author of over 15 cookery books and her memoir Climbing the Mango Tree.

Madhu described her predicament as an immigrant. Christopher Kremmer, a foreign correspondent who wrote Inhaling the Mahatma, featured in same the session, shed insights into the expatriate's life and the event filled life as a foreign correspondent in India.

The first day of the festival was concluded with the session of Bawa and beyond and the walking Garden tour of Lunuganga.

One of the striking features of the session moderated by Prof. David Robson was that it was not only an amalgamation of prized Sri Lankan and International Architects but also a session where Bawa's influence on the panellists' work and the future of Bawa's legacy in architecture, was discussed.

This session was also filled with anecdotes and Bawa's innate ability to solve problems, often integrating physical obstacles into his work.

Against the tide of commercialism in architecture, the future of Bawa's legacy in architecture and its defining influence on motifs of tropical architecture was also discussed.


Poetry at Sundown

Senior Lecturer in Engligh Vivimarie Van Der Poorten

Prof. Ashley Halpe

(Galle Literary festival. 12th January 2007. Poets Unplugged. Dicks Bar. Featured writers: Sandra Fernando; Afdhel Aziz; Vivimarie Vanderpoorten, Nuzhat Abbas; Prof. Ashly Halpe).

A sloping turf stylishly scattered with Frangipani trees which were soaked in subtle hues of soft lights. Gentle sound of water flapping on to the walls of the swimming pools. One wonders whether this backdrop was deliberately made for a poetry reading. If so, the effort was not in vain.

Surrounded by a friendly audience comfortably perched on cushioned chairs, garden chairs and on the cold cement floor, five poets and a prose writer read out from their work.

Sandra Fernando (Author: Candle and Other Poems); Afdhel Aziz (author: China Bay Blues); Vivimarie Vanderpoorten (her book "Nothing Prepares You" to be released shortly); Prof. Ashly Halpe (one of Sri Lanka's top poets and educators) and prose writer cum human rights activist Nuzhat Abbas.

If poetry is an expression of one's deepest soul, then each poet's individuality shone through the work that was read. Sandra Fernando's readings were as vibrant, fresh and energetic as her work.

Afdhel Aziz's poetry gently flowed like a river passing the shores of philosophy, memory and emotions. Vivimarie's poems were charged with life, feelings and unpredictability. Prof. Halpe in his seasoned poetry brought out hidden echoes of music that resonated to the powerful lyrics.

The odd one among the poet, prose writer Nuzhat Abbas in her novel extract grappled with the passionate social issues.

Taken as a combined experience, the poetry and nature at the Dicks Bar at sundown was a unique experience which conversed with the soul of the audience.



Being literary. being Sri Lankan

Galle Literary festival. 13th January 2007. Four Ways Forward. Featured writers: Jagath Kumarasinghe, Pradeep Jeganathan, Madhubashini Ratnayake and Lal Medawattegedara.

Is it "gode" to use Sri Lankan English in fiction? Should Sri Lankan characters in Sri Lankan literature speak polished English? These were some of the pertinent questions that hung in mid air as an eager audience gathered at the Hall de Galle to listen to four Sri Lankan writers talk about their use of vernacular in their writings. This thought-provoking panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Neloufer de Mel.

Pradeep Jeganathan began the session with few readings from his book "The Water's Edge" which were woven around Sri Lankan experience and he spellbound the audience.

Madhubashini spoke about being an English writer while living in a country where the majority language was Sinhala.

Readings from Ashok Ferrey’s Good little Ceylanese girl’ at Upper Dickson road. Sandra Fernando at the extreme left.

Lal Medawattegedara read from his book "The Window Cleaner's Soul" and demonstrated the use of Sri Lankan English in his work as well as how the characters in his book respond to English.

Jagath Kumarasinghe spoke how he tried to make English language "his own" in his Gratiaen award winner "Kaider Chetty Street".

The writers were offered a wide variety of questions by the audience. There was a consensus that Sri Lankan English should be promoted and encouraged in Sri Lankan literature. Did English create class distinctions in our society? That was one question for which an answer was eagerly sought.

All in all it was a panel that engaged the audience, brought our thought provoking discussions and more than anything else gave a greater awareness for the use of vernacular in Sri Lankan English writing.