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DateLine Wednesday, 20 June 2007

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‘From the Cradle’ focuses on folk culture

LAMP: Dr. Sarath Amunugama watches the lamp being lit by S. K. Wickremasinghe, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Martin Wickramasinghe Trust. The lamp was hung from a beam in the verandah of the replica of the ‘mul gedara’.

CULTURE: Girls clad in ‘kabakuruthu’ and ‘redda’ greeted the visitors. Panels with photographs of artifacts of Sri Lankan folk culture were displayed along the path. A neat replica of the house where the celebrated writer Martin Wickramasinghe was born, formed the backdrop.

The venue was the Jubilee Room at Galle Face Hotel. The occasion was the launch of ‘From the Cradle’ , a coffee table book based on the artifacts displayed at the Martin Wickramasinghe Museum of Folk Culture. It coincided with the 117th birth anniversary of the Sage of Koggala.

The simple but impressive ceremony was attended by Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Minister of Enterprise Development & Investment Promotion as chief guest. The well-known scriptwriter and film director Tissa Abeysekera was the facilitator. The keynote speaker was Professor Emeritus K. N. O. Dharmadasa.

Delivering the keynote address Dr. Sarath Amunugama said Gunadasa Amarasekara and K. Jayathilaka would not have become novelists if not for the inspiration received from Martin Wickramasinghe. He wrote novels and short stories in a new style. As a journalist and novelist he refashioned the language to suit his purpose.

He said the decline of language shows the downwards trend found in society. The Sinhala language used in popular culture shows signs of decay. Although Sinhala is on the decline, other Asian languages are going forward with added enthusiasm.

According to Examination Department figures only 41 p.c. of GCE O/L candidates have been successful in the Sinhala language. This shows a backward trend in the Sinhala language in modern times, he said.

The lavishly illustrated book published by the Martin Wickramasinghe Trust starts with a brief description of Koggala and the house where he was born, around which the Museum has been established. It goes on to discuss salient features of day-to-day activities of the people highlighting some of the fast diminishing customs and traditions prevalent in the early days.

For example, the ‘guru gedara’ - the teacher’s house where the village children learnt their first letters is no more in the village. Visits to the ‘veda gedara’ - the native physician’s home are also very rare.

The role of the village temple, the place of rice in the daily menu, the busy housewife’s paraphernalia, celebrations during Sinhala Avurudu, modes of transport in the early days, and traditional customs are among the topics covered in the publication.

The skilled craftsmen who supplied the necessities for the peasants to lead a simple life are described in detail along with colourful photographs of their products, which are housed in the Folk Museum.

‘From the Cradle’ carries a wide range of high quality photographs captured through the lens of renowned photographer Sarath Perera. The lay out and design is by seasoned designer Somachandra (Ruwan) Peiris. The text is by D. C. Ranatunga, experienced journalist.

The publication also includes two features - one by Tissa Abeysekera, and the other by Professor K. N. O. Dharmadasa, and a complete list of Martin Wickramasinghe publications.


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