Wednesday, June 10, 2009

ELOQUENCE IN STONE - Review by Kishanie Fernando, Daily Mirror, 12 May 2008

More than a lithic saga in stone
Story by Kishanie Fernando.

˜Eloquence in Stone, the lithic Saga of Sri Lanka, the title of the latest publication by Studio times hardly does it justice.
Sifting though the 475 pages of loose sheets which will soon be bound to make up the 12x12x3 inches book, to me it seemed an unique photographic essay telling the story of almost everything there is to be known about our heritage.
For those lovers of Sri Lanka it is the best news I can give. A team of professionals including Sinha Raja Tammita-Delgoda, Anu Weerasuriya, Christopher Silva, Luxshman Nadaraja, Devaka Senaviratne, Roshan Perret led by no less than the icon of Sri Lanka photography Nihal Fernando has taken fifteen years or more to record the story of Sri Lanka with their cameras. It will be the latest in the series of publications by Studio Times, with a special pre-print offer that closes on 15 May.
˜This book is the dream of my father said Anu, Nihal Fernando’s daughter who has inherited not only the legacy of Studio Times but also her fathers seeing eye, and passionate love for the country. It is undoubtedly her energy and effort supported by her photographer husband Christopher Silva that is putting the book together.
We are all familiar with Nihal Fernando celebrated photographer, environmentalist and agriculturist who started his career with the Times Newspaper group. In 1963 employee became proprietor as he purchased the company and began Studio Times. One time a man of tremendous energy and perseverance he now takes backstage watching those whom he inspired carry forward his loves, hopes, dreams. It is his vision that is reflected in the pages of the book
Anu explained how the story unfolded one of the oldest living cultures in the world, focusing on its people, the environment that sustained them, their art, architecture and heritage. Traveling through some two and half millennia of Sri Lankan history it told a story of a people their beginnings, their beliefs, their kingdoms and their declines and regeneration. I sat stunned this is what I had always wished for in one book.
Later as I went through the copy I was even more impressed. It was a story said with few words of maximum effect. Precise and informative. Starting at the very beginning before the dawn of history in the pre historic sites like Batadomba, Minihagalkanda, Hortan Plains. The saga continued covering the dawn of history with the arrival of Prince Vijeya, the introduction of Buddhism, the golden age of Anuradhapura, the end of the golden age, the brief and brilliant flowering at Pollonnaruwa, the lost civilization of Ruhuna, shifting tides focusing on the temporary kingdoms and finally the last stronghold of Kandy.
It was an exciting story delicately penned by Sinha Raja Tammita-Delgoda. A fascinating archeological study of extensive research supported by a glossary, bibliography, maps and an index.
The photographs are captivating; of boulders, caves, jungles, wewas, dagobas, and of those who lived there. Photographs of places little or never heard like Tanjanagar kovil Tissamaharamaya and Padikemgala viharaya Mahagalwewa. Rare perspectives of more common places like Aukana and Thuparamaya. Undocumented archeological sites like Naga Thambaram near Trincomalee and Andagala on the borders of Gal Oya. Sites that are now inaccessible due to war like Kotigala and Rajagala. Places frequented but details we often miss like at Yapahuwa and Barandi Kovil. Antiquities which have been destroyed by the elements like the ancient well rings at the Ruhuna National Park and by treasure hunters like the ivory carvings at Ridi vihara.
This is just an example of the 465 colour and black and white photographs that tell their individual stories.
It is a collection of classic photography based on the fine art of photography depending on direction and change of light. An art which calls for much waiting and patience and perseverance achieved so delightfully in this book. We have produced here some of the photographs.
One wanders how this team did it all. Traveling unknown roads, climbing scorching rocks under the blazing sun or soaking rain, crossing streams, exploring elephants infested jungles and most of all walking..walking.. walking endless miles carrying with them their photographic equipment and other needs. One objective seemed to have driven them; to find abandoned sites, to document and tell their story with the intention of preserving for future Sri Lanka. A team that treads gently on earth inspired by the dream of their leader; I want to make people think about our past and what they are doing to it before it is too late.

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