Monday, March 02, 2015

Eloquence in Stone’ travels far - By Ranat

A photograph in the Daily FT earlier this week showed Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde in Washington. It was interesting to see Lagarde having a copy of ‘Eloquence in Stone,’ the Studio Times publication. Obviously the Minister had presented a copy to her – an ideal souvenir. The classy production traces Sri Lanka’s history visually with a heap of high quality pictures supported by an extremely well-written text. Lagarde is bound to enjoy the book and find a permanent place in her library.
Interesting publications by Studio Times Studio Times has been releasing interesting publications for several decades. They are all about Sri Lanka. My collection dates back to 1974 when Studio Times released ‘Handbook for the Ceylon Traveller’. For over three decades I have made full use of the book, which is a ready-reckoner on any location in Sri Lanka which one wants to visit or know about. I continue to quote from it for the articles and books I write. I find it hard to get such authentic information on places from any other publication. In between the ‘Handbook’ and ‘Eloquence’ (2008), Studio Times gave us ‘The Wild, The Free, The Beautiful’ (1984), ‘Serendip to Sri Lanka: Immortal Isle’ (1991)and ‘Sri Lanka: A Personal Odyssey’ 1997). All were well-polished gems of photography mixed with fine text. ‘Eloquence in Stone’ beats them all – in size, in content, in visual extravagance, in well-researched written material and in presentation. Bigger than the coffee table books we are used to, ‘Eloquence’ is a 475-page volume with 465 photographs.
Tale of Sri Lanka’s history through the ages ‘Eloquence’ is the tale of Sri Lanka’s history through the ages. It relates “the amazing saga of a small people on a small island who are heirs to one of the oldest living cultures in the world who still speak the same language, practice the same religion and follow the same customs as their ancestors did more than 2,000 years ago”. It discusses their art and craft, their architecture, sculpture and painting in a classic publication. In short ‘ the story of man in a world shaped by his environment’.
The book is the brainchild of one man – Nihal Fernando. Best known as a most talented and committed photographer, he is a traveller, wild life enthusiast, conservationist and lover of anything Sri Lankan. “This is the dream I have had for the last 15 years. I want to tell the story of this country and its people. I want to make people think about our past and what we are doing to it before it’s too late,” he says in two lines, which is aptly displayed in a full page in the book.
A fresh look and insight As for the contents, it covers an exhaustive period of over 2,000 from our origins to the Kandyan era and traces the ups and downs experienced over the years. Just as much as it tells the story of the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa periods, the book covers Ruhuna and the less talked-about kingdoms.
We have visited, seen and admired most places that boast of the richness and vibrancy of ancient culture. Yet glancing through the pages of ‘Eloquence’ we find many an exciting place, a craft or an art which we had either missed out or even if we had seen, give a fresh look and insight. The colour and black and white photographs are the painstaking efforts of five main cameramen – Nihal Fernando, daughter Anu, Laxmanan Nadaraja, Christopher Silva, Devaka Seneviratne and Roshan Perret. The exhaustive text has been written and lucidly presented by Sinharaja Tammita-Delgoda. Eranga Tennekoon is responsible for the pleasing design. The Studio Times team which had travelled widely to every nook and corner capture the glory of Sri Lanka has done a wonderful job and deserves praise and precious of everyone who loves the motherland. ‘Eloquence’ is a ‘must’ in one’s library and an ideal gift for anyone.


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