2009 වර්ෂයේදී ආරම්භ කල ශ්‍රී ලාංකීය වේදිකාව නම් මෙම වෙබ් අඩවිය, ලාංකීය කලා කෙත පෝෂණය කිරීමට ගත් කුඩා වෑයමකි. විශේෂයෙන්ම අන්තර්ජාලය තුල වේදිකා නාට්‍ය ගැන පලවූ ලිපි එකම වෙබ් අඩවියකට යොමුකොට, වේදිකා නාට්‍ය හදාරන සහ ඒ පිලිබදව උනන්දුවක් දක්වන සැමට පිටුවහලක් වන ලෙසට එය පවත්වාගෙන යනු ලැබීය.

2012 වර්ෂයේ සැප්තම්බර් මාසයේ www.srilankantheatre.net
නමින් අලුත් වෙබ් අඩවියක් ලෙස ස්ථාපනය කල මෙම වෙබ් අඩවිය, ලාංකීය කලා කෙත නව ආකාරයකින් හෙට දවසෙත් පෝෂණයේ කිරීමට සැදී පැහැදී සිටී. මෙම නව වෙබ් අඩවිය තුලින් වේදිකා නාට්‍ය පමණක් නොව, චිත්‍රපට, සංගීතය, ඡායරෑපකරණය, සාහිත්‍ය සහ තවත් නොයෙක් ලාංකීය කලා මාධ්‍යන් ගැන විශ්ලේෂනාත්මක ලිපි ඉදිරිපත්කිරීමට බලාපොරොත්තු වෙමු. ඒ සදහා ඔබගේ නොමසුරු සහයෝගය සහ දායකත්වය අප බලාපොරොත්තු වෙමු.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Meditation on Gamini Haththotuwegama





Source : The Island
Friday, 06 November 2009

Gamini Haththotuwegama is no more. The man, known to some as GK, to others as ‘Gamini’, ‘Hatha’, ‘Haththa’ or simply as ‘Sir’, hailed as the Father of Street Theatre in Sri Lanka, will take his final curtain call this evening. As befitting such a colossus, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs has come forward to give him such honour as is his due, with deference of course to the wishes of the family. In a meeting to discuss funeral arrangements, a Ministry official said that the route that the funeral procession will take from the ‘Kala Bhavana’ to the ‘Kanatte’ will be lined with white flags. Rajith, the son, remarked with the wit, smile and acute consciousness of things human so reminiscent of his father, ‘eya aasa rathu paatata (he preferred red)!’ Like the father, again, Rajith and his sister Chamindu displayed a healthy disregard for ceremony and like their father once again showed a deference to the will of an innocent public want (in this instance the need to demonstrate grief). They did not protest.

Red. Yes, that was his colour and ‘redness’ was the theme song that meandered as an unmistakable thread tying together all the things this remarkable man took on. He is called the Father of Street Theatre and rightfully too, but theatre was but one of the many mediums he used to articulate his insightful reading of the social, political and cultural. He was dramatist, actor, critic and human being. And he was a teacher through and through.

He will be remembered fondly. Remembrance and grief are largely personal things and one should leave it to the individuals whose lives were touched by the man to remember and lament as per their personal preference. He was a deeply sensitive man but not one given to tearing in public except on extremely rare occasions. That’s a cue I suppose for all of us.

Who was Gamini Haththotuwegama though? What was the ‘red’ in his life and work? As I browsed the web for a picture of the man, I came across a lengthy comment by Ajith Samaranayake, perhaps the only other person who was as articulate as Haththa (that’s how my contemporaries at Peradeniya referred to him) in both English and Sinhala on the vast range of subjects that come under ‘literature and arts’. Ajith, alas, predeceased Haththa by a few years (and what a loss!).

Ajith was referring to a lecture delivered by Haththa titled ‘Unreasonable postulates and treasonable practices correlative to English’. It was, as Ajith points out, a rather portentous title and come to think of it, quite un-Haththa like. What caught my eyes was a quote. Haththa had approvingly read out something that Ernest Macintyre had written:

"…when one grows into another culture through the intensive root-cutting education in English, the creative urge to truthfully turn it back on the soil you were pulled away from, the sentient world of the indigenous culture, is a magnificent compensation, the quality of which is not sometimes available even to those with unmoved roots, in a world of much movement."

It was natural that Haththa saluted this observation because Macintyre could very well have been talking about him for he, more than anyone else, embodied the creature described; he cut back through the layers of mis-education, sought his native soil and danced on it with all the grace and confidence that the process ingrained in him, in terms of ideological prerogative, nuance to cultural difference and the ability to pick and choose his waters from the many wells he had encountered and make thereafter a heady cocktail that could jolt his audience with audacity, tasteful humour and creative genius.

Haththa knew his English. He was acutely aware of its power, its coercive and violent potential and its other ‘kaduwa’ quality of marking distinction, leaving out and cultural political manipulation. He used it against itself, so to speak, disrupting thereby the entire hegemonic discourse. I remember him telling me in the terrible days following the UNP-JVP bheeshanaya that the JVP could have told the people that English is a necessary part of the revolution. His point was that English, one of the many weapons at the disposal of the enemy, should be picked up and turned against the oppressor. The beauty of his disposition was that when he used the kaduwa he dealt with ‘kaduwaness’ with both unforgiving and subtle strokes, equally effective as per occasion.

He was respected, yes; tolerated even, but Gamini Haththotuwegama was never embraced by English Departments in our universities. Why not? The answer can be obtained in the following observation: "What’s the point of giving English at university levels, feeding the students with the highest academic equipment available - the most radical, nay revolutionary cultural theory, by presumably some of the best literary-linguistic brains in the business, yes feeding students whose acquaintance with our culture begins and ends presumably with ‘Thannane naa - thana-naa’ sung by Ba and Sa (and a herd of tune-repeating umbaas) who have been successful as no others have in setting a price to our folk rhythms, as a street drama actor put it so succinctly?"

There is then a marked distaste for doing ‘The Macintyre Number’ among those who study, teach, write, do business, brag and in other ways and for a variety of reasons think that their ‘fluency’ in the language gives them automatic membership in that dubious club called ‘The Elite’. As such these creatures are clearly part of the problem and are sadly compromised in the neo-colonialist project even as they speak on behalf of and champion the subaltern (how presumptuous!) and rile against hegemonic discourse.

The fact of the matter is that Haththa, even as he called them out for intellectual sloth and ideological confusion was far better at what they believed they were good at: teaching and writing. A few weeks ago someone told me that no one at Peradeniya writes as well as Gamini Haththotuwegama. I don’t know because not many at Peradeniya actually write, but it would be hard to find someone of whose writing it could be said ‘Streets ahead of GK’.

This is true not only of academic writing and also creative work. Haththa was not given to spending too much time on producing academic treatise, but when he did, it was always cogent, illuminating and wonderful to read. His essay on Lakdasa Wikkramasinha is a case in point. And outside the lecture theatre, as a creative artist, he was peerless. No one at Peradeniya can claim to have done as much to the development and understanding of theatre, except perhaps Ashley Halpe, probably the only person in that Department who respected and admired Haththa and moreover was able to have a mutually beneficial conversation on a wide range of topic related to literature and arts.

Ajith puts it best when he remarks on that lecture thus: It is also a lecture which only GK could have delivered because if there has ever been a teacher of English who has effortlessly related himself to the wider Sinhala socio-cultural milieu without pandering to populist whims or compromising his intellectual integrity it has been Gamini K. Haththotuwegama.

His ‘redness’ was of course not limited to a battle with ‘kaduwaness’, he touched all aspects of social injustice in his work, stood with and for the oppressed, and taught them not to hate but to effectively challenge the structures that kept them down. He gave us all a sense of dignity and thereby empowered us in the most important element in that oft-caricatured thing called ‘agitation’.

Every man’s life is an epic. Haththa will be remembered for that endearing line that has become a veritable tag-line to the street theatre scene in the country: yadam bindala gejji maala thanaganin (break your chains and make anklets and necklaces out of them). It is imperative that his students (and their numbers are legion) understand that the chains referred to are multifaceted and not limited to class-related politics (as per the quote in the Communist Manifesto, ‘the proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains; they have a world to win’). He was larger than that. And this is why Gamini Haththotuwegama will live long and we will hear and be empowered by the drama that was his life long after his ashes go cold. Some curtains refuse to fall, or do so slowly and only after the drama is really, really, done. It is not yet. Gamini Haththotuwegama plays on and we hear his voice; and his words reverberate with wit, insight and a rare kind of love.

by. Malinda Seneviratne

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Ritualistic theatre in Sri Lanka




By E. M. G. Edirisinghe
The Island / 03Jan1999


Kohomba Kankariya is the most famous and the most stately of all Lankan ritual theatre. Next to it is the much simpler forms of ritual performed by Gam Maduwa and Devol Maduwa instilled by the goddess Pattini whose cult considers her to be a powerful deity of influence with respect to contagious diseases and personal distress.

Sri Lanka carries a history of theatre back to pre-Christian era, recounts only of these dance forms breathing theatrical life and frame into ritualistic performances of the people.

Ritualistic theatre that frames the core of our theatre tradition is performed in promotion of community welfare and to heal the sick afflicted, mostly with mysterious illnesses which are non-diagnosable by the professionally ill-equipped native physicians. Therefore, to trace the history of ritualistic and folk theatre in Sri Lanka is a journey to study her traditional theatre. On the other hand, in that regard, the Sri Lanka theatre can be modestly be proud of retaining, and persistently preserving a tradition capable of theatre environment for the growth and expansion of sustaining an adequate what could be called national or modern theatre in the years that followed.

Looking back, what comes first to mind is Kohomba Kankariya, that most famous and the most stately of all Lankan ritual theatre. A student of folk drama who begins with "thei" the first step in traditional dance form matures into a complete traditional theatre with the performance of Kohomba Kankariya the pinnacle of ritualistic and folk theatre in Sri Lanka. It gives precedence to dance element over all other components of folktheatre. Performed in honour of God Kohomba an animistic deity, Kohomba literately means margosa a herbal medicinal plant for all times with strong potential to kill germs and clean the physical environment.

Next to it is the much simpler forms of ritual performed by Gam Maduwa and Devol Maduwa instilled by the goddess Pattini whose cult considers her to be a powerful deity of influence with respect to contagious diseases and personal distress.

Another class of ritual theatre is known as bali and thovil. The communal nature evident in the ritual connected to the Pattini cult has given way, in this category, for individual illnesses. Bali denotes a ritual sanctified in the nine planetary deities while thovil is performed to charm and appease the demons who are supposed to bring evil and disaster upon the individual. In these forms of ritual theatre dance and mime recede to insignificance with incantation receiving heavier accentuation. There are different kinds of thovil like Sunni Yakuma, Rata Yakuma and Sanni Yakuma each of which are believed to bring in one or more demons to demonstrate.

All this ritual theatre, always performed in the night are never acted on elevated platforms, but on flat land with the spectators seated and standing in a circle round the performance area attaining a very intimate and participatory relationship.

Monday, 4 January 2010

''Vimukthi'' A Drama By Somalatha Subasinghe (Veteran Children Dramatist)

video

Kohomba Kankariya




Kohomba Kankariya

by L. B. Senaratne

Kohomba Kankariya was first enacted in Sri Lanka during 1415 and 1468, at Jayawardenapura, Kotte. The ritual of God Kohomba, which ought to have been performed at Gannoruwa Ranabima (battlefield) between 1707 and 1739, during the reign of Sri Vira Parakrama Narendrasinghe did not take place at that time but was reported to have been held at Hantanne. The reason has not been adduced so far.

Like 'Gam Maduwa' rituals, Kohomba Kankariya ritual is performed to ensure freedom from diseases, invoke blessings and for the people to live in prosperity. The blessings are expected to manifest only in the location that KK is enacted, so that if any others want such blessings, they too are compelled to enact KK in their own areas, thereby ensuring more people would make offerings to please the 'Yakka' (devil) separately for their well-being!

From a different era

According to legend, the origin of this ritual dates back even to King Panduvasudeva's era in which it was born. The king was inflicted with an incurable disease, as a result of his predecessor, King Vijaya not keeping his promise to Princess Kuveni. It was the decision of God Sakra-the King of gods-that he could not be cured except by a person who was born out of a flower-known as the king of a flower. (The name 'Male Rajuroowo' (prince from flowers) in Sinhala is derived form this episode).

How could this be achieved? Sakra suggested that the only way the King of the flower could be brought into the island, was by means of Rahu, the Chief of the Asura tribe. He suggested that Rahu should take the form of a Boar, and should lie in wait in the garden to be seen by the King of the Flower. The King would be drawn to go in search of the Boar. Then next, he could be drawn into the Island.

This advice was followed and after that he came to Sri Lanka, according to the story laid out in the 'Rajavaliya'. (The place where the Boar swan across and landed in Sri Lanka is named "Uratota", as the folklore suggests). The King was then told of the affliction and then he agreed to cure King Panduvasudeva. The King of the flower then took the form of a Brahamin and relieved the affliction of King Panduvasudeva.

But there are other schools of thought; after the arrival of the King of the flower, he brought down four brothers and they assumed various comic guises, at which King Panduvasudeva laughed his wits out and he was said to have been cured.

According to Dr. Ediriweera Sarachandra, who quotes traditional beliefs, after the King of the flower returned to India he committed the people of Sri Lanka to the care of no less than twelve deities - Khomba Yakka, Irugal Bandara, Kande Bandara, Viramunda Yakka, Meleyi Yakka, Vadi Yakka, Kadavara Yakka, Vali Yakka, Kadu guru, Maha Guru, Ambrapati, and Kalu Kumara. All these deities make their appearances in the rituals of Kohomba Kankariya.

A different school of thought suggests that Khomba deity is not the King of the flower, but an altogether new deity created by the King of the flower to invoke the needed atmosphere and the surroundings to cure King Panduvasudeva. The Kohomba Kankariya enacted at the Ranabima Royal College grounds was for the blessings of 12 students, the first batch to be donned with 'Ves' at this school.

Ves is the headdress of a fully fledged Kandyan Dance. In the days gone by, 'Ves' was only donned on very senior dancers. But, of late, many school children have been donned 'Ves' after their period of tutelage under a Guru at the School. The first such donning of 'Ves' in a school was Kingswood College, Kandy. Since then it has been repeated in most schools where Kandyan Dancing is taught. But, of course, the entire process takes place under the close supervision of a senior dancer coming from a traditional Kandyan dancing family.

Kohomba Kankariya is in itself a very interesting exercise, when the students are bathed in pure cold water usually in the ganga(river), and conducted to a temple where many rites are performed by the tutors donning 'Ves'. The whole combination of the head dress is called the 'Ves Tattuwa'. Kohomba Kankariya is also not allowed to perform at anytime throughout the year. It is normally enacted before New Year or during that period.

In Kandy, where Kohomba Kankariya evolved, it takes nearly five years or more to arrange a full Kohomba Kankariya performance - the most difficult point is to scour the professional dancers who know the procedures well and the Kankariya itself.

Cost

In the yesteryear, the Kohomba Kankariya was arranged competitively by Chiefs of a village or those in the village who could afford to arrange this ceremony. The following year, the next village would arrange the Kankariya in a more elaborate way. However, the cost of Kohomba Kankariya is substantial. Even the Ranabima College has to spend around rupees six to seven lakhs, which was borne by the Parents, the Staff and well-wishers of the School. The total number of dancers? A whopping 66!

The Khohomba contains a number of episodes around an incident. Paddy harvested from the village is collected and offered as alms to a person called Cella Guru. But the person who takes the alms after its preparation is stung by a snake. This scenario forms the base and all surrounding sequences are acted in various manner using diverse symbols, accompanied by rhythmic drumming and miming.

The Gurunnanses (performance leaders) depict many of the episodes that are enacted in the Kohomba Kankariya. The performance continues without any break for nearly 12 hours. It commence around six pm in the evening and ends around noon the following day. But, the final preparations for the ceremony commences at least two weeks earlier, such as the adaptation of the place where it is to be held on an auspicious day. The main thrust of this ceremony is that it would not be held in isolation, but with the participation of people, so that they could enjoy the 'play' and also receive the benefit of its blessings.

At the end of the Kohomba Kankariya, the dancer depicting an Elephant, is led away to break into a store. Thereafter, a fire is lit and the pot the dancers carried is dashed on the ground to do away with any malefic influences known as the evil eye. Then the dancers come back to the site of the ritual, where the 'Yahana' or Altar is, and blessings are showered on the organizer of the Kohomba Kankariya. At the same time, a Banana flower is shot with an arrow, as a preventive measure to stop the evil eye being cast on the organiser of the Kankariya. The flower would then be broken along with the bow which was used to shoot the arrow. This ends the Kankariya.


WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka