There is more to Sri Lanka than sun, sea and sand, spectacular scenery, cultural history and mystery, eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and more species of wildlife than you can shake a stick at.
But you need to know where to look—and ARTRA is a good place to start. It bills itself as “Sri Lanka’s art magazine … a bi-monthly publication that focuses on visual art, performance art, design and literature”.
It describes its content as “revolving around esteemed art personalities, emerging art personalities, art in day-to-day activities, art initiatives that take place outside Colombo, works of art by Sri Lankan artists showcased overseas, the Sri Lankan art calendar, regional art events, the voice of Sri Lankan art circles, art and architecture and Born Free Art – ARTRA’s alternative to wildlife photography, that focusses on the subject through an artistic lens”.
So pretty comprehensive, then, if a tad ambitious, you might think. But a quick leaf through its beautifully produced pages and website tells a story of a striking vision and commitment to contemporary visual statements that is quite breathtaking.
Add to that its scope of literary and musical interests, and you do, in fact, have something that ranks with the best to be found anywhere the arts are regarded as an essential adjunct to life and living.
Take Lakshman de Saram, pictured above, renowned Colombo-born musician who, apart from co-writing the score of ‘Bel Ami’ with Academic Award winner Rachel Portman, has played a huge role in the development of Sri Lanka’s widely respected musical scene.
He tells ARTRA how he first learned to play a descant recorder, and how “my own interest in music came much later, when I was able to borrow records from the British Council library”, everything from military bands to Ambrosian chant.
The benefits of being educated both here and abroad means he doesn’t see a vast difference in comprehension between Sri Lankan and international audiences.
Much the same can be said of the other exceptional Sri Lankan talents that the magazine showcases, including Anisha Gooneratne (pictured below), a talented young photographer whose work can be seen on her flickr account.
The full Lakshman de Saram piece can be seen here.