My visit to the Lionel Wendt Art Centre produced some remarkable results. I had missed the production of Evita in the theatre. I wandered through a student art exhibition which was good but not remarkable. Then I wandered through the rest of the building and upstairs to the gallery.
PIX magazine special Sri Lanka edition – Exhibit at Lionel Wendt Art Centre
I had stumbled across the exhibit associated with the PIX magazine (quarterly) special edition devoted to Sri Lanka. Not all the photographers were from Sri Lanka. All the subject matter, though, related to Sri Lanka and was submitted to the topic Metamorphoses. The styles and subjects were highly varied but all of it was great photography.
Sri Lanka truly is an exceptionally photogenic part of the world and there are photographers who have exploited that quality magnificently. I will take away memories of this exhibition as the photographic highlight of my visit to Sri Lanka.
The PIX special edition devoted to Sri Lanka has since been made available for download. It is found at;
The photos from the exhibition and a few more can be found in the magazine. Highly recommended.
I left the exhibit with a greater appreciation of the photographic qualities of Sri Lanka and an admiration for those who produced and assembled this collection of photographs.
Colombo is tropical, located a tad below 7 degrees North. I was impressed with how green it was after spending the preceding five months in Kandahar. The humidity was also impressive.
I spent my time in the city in the old section of the Galle Face Hotel, built in 1864 and normally described as the oldest hotel east of Suez. Anyone of note who has visited Sri Lanka (or Ceylon as it was known before 1972) has stayed there. The hotel’s museum houses Prince Philip’s first car. The view from my window at the hotel was worth the price of admission. The hotel continues to offer excellent service and hospitality. All my Colombo city photos have been taken within walking distance of the Galle Face Hotel.
While Colombo is a big city with an entirely different character than the country’s center, I don’t regret the time I spent there. This city has a lot to offer culturally. My next trip which I hope to be longer will be sure to include some time in Colombo.
Roadside greenery – downtown Colombo.
More green in Colombo. Unhappily the river itself is a bit green.
One of the nicest views from a hotel room window ever encountered.
First floor landing . . . Galle Face Hotel.
Galle Face Hotel viewed from the sea side.
Oceanside – adjacent to the Galle Face Green.
More oceanside shops by the Galle Face Green.
The National Museum of Colombo is housed in a building of the British colonial style which was completed in 1877. A lot of the subject matter I found here was reminiscent of that found in the Kabul Museum. My last visit there in Kabul was just before the opening of a large exhibit of Buddhist period artifacts. In Sri Lanka the Buddhist period never ended and the images and statues were never deliberately destroyed. The museum was not looted during the civil war. Quite a few more items made it through intact to the present day.
The ground floor of the National Museum is laid out by historical period and contains an impressive collection of materials from the Kingdoms of Anuradhapura through Kandy. Upstairs, items are arranged thematically and tend to be of later vintage. The upstairs collection includes the throne of the last King of Kandy.
The building and grounds themselves are very interesting photographically and I found several more trees there as subject matter. The National Museum is a good place to visit for the photographically or archeologically inclined.
I always liked Ganesha
Through the looking glass. A miniature Buddha.
The Gangarama Temple offer is the Lankan equivalent of the visit to the Egyptian perfume factory. The person on the street is headed there because of a special event at the temple which will only be going on for the next day or the next few days. You are offered the chance to join him on the visit. The temple visit is followed by the visit to the gem export centre.
I fell for it and I am glad I did. The Gangarama Temple was not on my list of things to see. I did not need any gem stones for myself or as gifts but learned a little about what stones are common in Sri Lanka. I would not have made it to the temple had it not been for one of the gem touts.
The Gangarama Temple visit netted a large number of photographs. There is an a tree raised from a sapling of the Sri Maha Bodhiya in Anuradhapura, a set of small stupas of the design found at Borobudur, and even a baby (4 year old) elephant. Well worth a visit for tourists or for pilgrims.
The pictures tell the story.
Miniatures of the Candi Borobudur stupas. (Borobudur is the temple near Magelang in central Java.)
Bodhi tree grown from a sapling of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi at Anuradhapura.
My new favorite subject matter on this trip were some of the trees. Trees can sometimes seem very commonplace. The ones I saw in Sri Lanka seemed exotic. I don’t know why. I expect on my return I will be doing even more tree photos.
Ritigala is another sacred mountain. It is seen in the background of some of my tree photos taken on the Cinnamon Lodge Habarana property. Ritigala is the mountain called Aristha in the Ramayana, the mountain from where Hanuman launched himself back to Rama after locating Ravana and the abducted Sita.
More recently, Ritigala was the site of a Buddhist monastery. The ruins there date to the first century BCE.
Ritigala mountain appears in the background of this photo taken on the grounds of the Cinnamon Lodge Habarana
A demonstration of activities that took place here in monastic times. This is part of the monastery’s library.
Walking meditation “track.” The stone in the foreground is one end of the path established outside the building for walking meditation. The other can be seen in the distance.
Even “ruins” require a certain amount of upkeep.
Learning to meditate on an (often misconceived) idea that one has no self is a self-centered activity that I think is likely to be self-defeating.
– – – Richard Gombrich
Before you ask, this is the son of Ernst Hans Gombrich. The circular references to self capture the difficulty involved with assimilating the Buddhist concept that denies a ‘self.’ We see presented the same sort of semantic problem as the translation of “Cogito ergo sum” into “I think, therefore I am.” The translation spells out very clearly that we are involved in a syllogism.
I am not going to continue along this line any further. Since we are dealing with Buddhist images from Sri Lanka, I just thought this would be a good place to evoke the name of Richard Gombrich.
Not far from Anuradhapura is the sacred mountain of Mihintale. It is possible to visit on the same day you explore Anuradhapura. Civil engineers will relish the way water was handled over two-thousand years ago. Others can just take in the sights and imagine what the place was like as a great monastic city.
Not all lakes are merely lakes. Some are tanks and were the reservoirs that once served an elaborate system of irrigation and water distribution.
Anuradhapura is a good place to start with the Sri Lanka photographs from October. The place did not evoke any memories after my thirty-nine year absence. I am sure that it has not changed much in that time despite some renovation work shown in a few of these photographs. I expect that a time traveler from two-thousand years ago would easily recognize it as the same place as when it was Sri Lanka’s capital. Anuradhapura was founded in the fifth century BCE but the area may have been inhabited up to five centuries before that.
The image just below is that of probably the most frequently photographed stupa in the complex, a few hundred meters away from a Bodhi tree which was propagated from the one in Bodh Gaya under which Gautama Buddha achieved enlightenment.
Most of these photos require no explanation.
The admonition regarding photography and Buddha statues is intended to keep people from having their photograph taken standing in front of the statue. That would place the Buddha at their back and imply disrespect. Photographs of the statue or image itself, as shown here, are perfectly acceptable.
Preparation for renovation. Stones are labeled before removal.
Some of the repair and renovation requires the same techniques used in construction over two-thousand years ago.
The repairs remind us of the impermanence of all things of this world.