Indigenous Paintings of Sri Lanka

Lankaweb, June 10, 2008

Special documentary on Sri Lanka's rich art heritage

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- This film takes one on a visual pilgrimage of many Buddhist sites of Sri Lanka , providing a glimpse of the rich tradition of the nation’s indigenous art. The film provides an overview of the overflowing richness of the nation’s cultural tradition. It presents an assortment of artwork, associated with a period that exceeds 2200 years, from 3rd Century BCE to the 21st Century.

These paintings reveal vividly the richness of imagination, creativity, aesthetic sense and inspiration of the people of Sri Lanka. They represent a diversity of historic sites scattered across the country, including those designated by the UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

Paintings that are featured are reflective of varied art styles, approaches and traditions of the past and present. Included are paintings found in ancient caves, temples, monasteries, royal palaces, and on a diversity of surfaces, such as cave and rock surfaces, walls including relic chamber walls inside stupas, ceilings, statues and associated structures, on doors and other wooden surfaces, clay and earthenware, and on textiles in historic sites including Buddhist shrines. Paintings on wooden surfaces are found on the ceilings of Buddhist shrines, ola manuscript covers, screens, boxes used to store sacred objects.

The film provides a comprehensive perspective of the island’s long and rich heritage of Buddhist art, associated with a period that exceeds 2200 years, from 3rd century BCE to modern times. Among the oldest paintings are those on rock surfaces in caves, and in relic chambers inside stupas. Some Buddhist paintings of Sri Lanka are among the oldest surviving Buddhist art of the South Asian region.

These paintings reveal vividly the richness of inspiration, imagination, creativity and aesthetic sense of artists of the past and present times. Influenced by their inner spiritual emotions and discipline, artists developed their own expressions, approaches and styles which resulted in a unique artistic tradition, and a range of artistic creations that are characteristic to Sri Lanka.

The film presents a considerable amount of information and interpretations on the nation’s historic paintings and serves as a resource for those familiar with Buddhist art and for those interested in learning more on this exciting visual cultural heritage. The objective of the film is to provide a glimpse of the island’s rich tradition of art - a fascinating aspect of its visual cultural heritage. While helping to stimulate a sense of pleasure, pride and discovery, this film provides an aesthetic challenge resulting in greater cultural awareness and discernment.

A visual presentations of this nature will help to generate increased awareness and appreciation of the richness of our cultural heritage. They are of special significance for our younger generation.

Buddhist paintings are among the most gentle and sublime art of humankind. Some are among the oldest surviving Buddhist art of South Asia . They are known to generate inner calm, and evoke serene joy and emotion in people, irrespective of their religious or cultural backgrounds.

They transcend artistic and aesthetic appreciation and appeal to something higher and deeper. Engrossed in classical Buddhist paintings one finds that they tend to enter one’s inner self, transforming one’s mind to a state of innocence, compassion, serene joy and peacefulness.

Enrichment and promotion of indigenous arts and culture being a fundamental principle of the “Mahinda Chinthanaya”, this film has been planned as an opportunity for all to see, appreciate and learn, and as an occasion that stimulates a sense of pleasure, pride and discovery. It is an experience providing an aesthetic challenge resulting in a greater cultural awareness and discernment.

This is a documentary film that was shown internationally in several countries and locally at the Colombo National Museum , the National Art Gallery and the BMICH theatre. The duration of the film is one and half hours and there are two versions - Sinhala and English. In recent months, it was shown at several Military camps as a means of boosting the morale of our soldiers and military personnel.

The film is being premiered at universities and national and provincial schools, across the country. National TV channels have presented segments of the film at various times in the past. All English and Sinhala national newspapers have carried reviews and articles on the film, referring to Buddhist paintings presented in the film as “Marvels of a Cultural Heritage”.
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