As I am a member of the Past Teachers’ Association of Ananda, I quickly emailed my pal Upali about my Idea and formally wrote to the secretary to get a venue and to sponsor an exhibition.It took several months and a few phone calls to get a positive answer and in July I was onboard to Sri Lanka to make the initial arrangements, along with my luggage were my paintings I have been dying since I returned. I coaxed my husband too to follow me to SL and quickly packed a bag of some paintings too, before e he changed his mind.
It was a five week stay in SL in July and August, with my friend Girty I visited several possible venues in Colombo, but decided Ananda premises as the best. I met the Principal of Ananada, Mr Kithsiri Liyanagamage, who had a very charming and a positive approach. The dates were fixed for 15th-17th January, when things will be quiet after the holiday.(lets wait and see!) . He introduced me to the art teacher of Ananda, Ms Tamara who was equally positive and promised me to help in the hanging of paintings for the show. I also managed to get a three part slot in ITN Sirimedura programme through Mr Udaya Tennakoon of ITN where I demonstrated how to do a watercolour painting. This was indeed early publicity.
Back in London on the `15th August I was struck with a bad cold and flu for a week. I started to work on my exhibition around the 25th of August. So far I had not thought about a chief guest. Who is better than Rajitha, my faithful student who has stood by me at all times and in contact when ever I went to SL or when he visited London? I asked my husband, as he assured it I was on the phone to Rajitha,to whom I have to send a message through his secretary I thought. A voice from the other end “ teacher, mae Rajitha” I told him to be the chief guest , he accepted happily and assured me give all his support at all times for this event, and also mentioned that the Hon Pope’s visit is scheduled for 13th to 15th and Jan and to make sure that he has left the country before the opening time of my exhibition as there will be several road closures.. My target was to have around hundred watercolour paintings, as I already taken about fifty, another fifity to be completed in 10 weeks, a tight schedule. Indeed by the 1st of November another sixty paintings were ready all framed! ready to be hung! The political situation in SriLanka was in turmoil, a presidential election to be held soon, I was keeping my fingers crossed for it to be held well before or after the 15th January. Around 20th Nov it was announced that the nominations will be called for the presidential election to be held on the 8th January. On the 21st Nov Justin tells me staring at the computer screen, “ your chief guest has taken a radical step to come out along with three others” well I thought he is only the chief guest I will still go ahead with the exhibition as its only on the 15th January a week after.
I was in Colombo on the 5th of December 2014, with my luggage of 47 kilos, paintings paintings and paintings all framed from UK. I started my tedious journey of arranging for my exhibition. Publicity, write ups, arranging tv slots, chasing newspaper editors for paper inserts, going five times to the same printer for quotations, running to my friend Manel’s computer , Girty’ advice, my cousin Saman’s laptop, at all times in sun and rain, and through busy unruly drivers, hearing adverse comments and enjoying the shrill noise of car horns, in my little Nano car praying that the car will not give up, my enthusiasm was the fuel. All my friends, Girty, Manel, Jayanthi, Nilani, Anusha,Dayanitha, Upula, prof,Rohana and my cousins were behind me at all times even in their sincere thoughts, their tables were laid for me even at all odd times. Lionel the president of PPA Ananda and Lalith the president of OBA of Ananda were of support at all times. It was not difficult to get contacts of media personnel as there were Anandians at every responsible office and also my London friends Daya and Janaka offered me good media contacts. But the things I had to do were twice as hard! Mainly because the atmosphere of the country was all geared for the on coming election.” Aiyo election ne miss, ita passe Pope enawane, Taipongal niwaduwane” I heard this phrase
every time when I went to get a small task done. People were talking of post election violence, curfews, and road closures. Even lock ups and police arrests.I had to get the invitations printed by the dawn of 2015. My husband arrived on the 2nd of January with the rest of the paintings and stationery as envelopes stickers etc. The next task was to post the invitations and to prepare the catalogue, I had to phone to get most of the addresses and some of them to be hand delivered, as Justin was there by my side I was rid of the driving. With a new clutch replaced after his arrival it was the case of driving driving and driving! My unsophisticated Nokia mobile phone and our humble nano car deserve a reward ceremony, I thought.Another hitch, Ananda will be closed till the 16th after the elections as the school was given over the police officers occupation for Pope’s visit. We had to ensure all the preparations were in place by the 5th when the school opened for 2 days before closure. With Lionel we managed to see to the nitty gritty. The invitations were posted by this time. We invited Pandit Amaradewa as a special guest which he and his wife very graciously accepted,
No election violence as expected, no curfew, indeed a new president.. Every where interesting talks over cups of tea drinks and take aways, not about Lakshmi Perera’s exhibition but about the new and the past regimes.. The Pope was to leave at 8.45 am on the day.. By the 12th January I managed to get inserts of the event in six newspapers. My good student Prof Ravindra Fernando also helped in this. I got 3 slots in Rupavahini and ITN, a voice cut was taken for Sirasa FM.I even managed to get a slot on the ITN very popular programme Chat n Music on the 16th Jan to tell about the event.
The 15th dawned, my cousins Saman, Ranjith and Dulan helped in transporting the paintings to the venue.Ms Tamara’s pupils were an asset on that day to hang the paintings. With the help of many the hall was ready by 1pm. The guys from the OBA did the Pahana and the podium décor. A couple of hours before the opening to reminisce and to get the breadth back. Looking at my own paintings I thought, did I do all these? I love every one of them equally but I am happy to give up all of them for a good cause. I had a target in mind, a sum to donate, I will be happy if I reached that target I thought. I had to get ready, the washroom at the back of the hall served me as a dressing room, oh my comb was missing, my toothbrush was a poor substitute for a comb.Justin was ready too preparing his thanksgiving speech.
All things done, waiting for the moment of truth. It was 4pm.The people were trickling in, my friends relatives batch mates,my students past Anandians of all walks of life, media personnel. Rajitha my invited chief guest was too busy at that time making preparations for the hundred day programme to become a reality. My most honoured special guest Pandit W D Amaradewa with Mrs Wimala Amaradeva arrived on time to grace the occasion and to declare open my exhibition! A national treasure, whose voice haunted me since childhood, A great human being to open my humble exhibition? It was the highlight of all these months’ preparation.
My target was met and the entire collection of the sale of 30 paintings was donated to Ananda PPA scholarship fund and Ananda OBA Hostel fund.As always my husband Justin was with me at all times.