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Photographs by Tissa Madawela

“ Rupa Kavya ” (Photo Poetry) an anthology of poems by Daya Ananda Ranasinghe was launched in London at a large gathering of literary enthusiasts on Sunday 16th November, 2014.  The venue was  - the All Saints Church Hall, Waltham Drive, Edgware, Middlesex.

This novel literary form titled “ Rupa Kavya” is a by product of “ Lanka Viththi ” the monthly newspaper in Sinhala of which Daya was the editor.  It created a popular forum for all Sinhala literary enthusiasts in the UK for over sixteen years from 1997 to 2013, serving patriotic Sri Lankans living abroad during a critical period in our recent history.  

A significant factor of Lanka Viththi paper was that it carried a beautiful photograph together with Sinhala and English poems relevant to the main event or events for that month. This became a very popular feature which the readers looked forward to.  This literary combination of sweet poetry with a beautiful photograph or picture could be referred to as Rupa Kavya ( Photo/Picture – Poetry) in Sinhala. So ‘Rupa Kavya’ was an anthology of such poetry together with the photographs published on the front-page over last sixteen years. 

The initial launch of the book was held at the Mahaveli Centre in Colombo on 4th September which was a grand success. Lanka Viththi being the newspaper initiated in London where Daya Ranasinghe has been living for nearly four decades, and this being the city where “ Rupa Kavya” originated, it was nothing but correct to have this launch here too with the readership of the paper - ‘Lanka Viththi ’

The large audience that had gathered in London even in a wintry afternoon in adverse weather itself was the best indication of the approval of the Lanka Viththi paper and its by product – Rupa Kavya.

After the greetings of welcome by the compere Sujeeva Nivunhella, and the traditional initiation ceremony of lighting of the oil lamp, Daya Ananda Ranasinghe out lined the aim and the purpose of the event. There were four speakers to view and analyse the anthology of poetry interspersed with recitation of verses by author Daya and Ms Suneetha Perera.

The first speaker was Dr Upali Abeysiri, a retired surgeon and a poet who reviewed the role of poetry in all aspects of everyday life of our people, in happiness  as well as in sorrow,  illustrating with reference to the pages of the book which had been arranged to be presented on the screen to the audience. He referred to the various festive occasions of happiness of our daily life as well as the occasion of deep sorrow for our people such as when the Tsunami struck our country. Then also how our people coped up with long period of sorrow throughout the terrorist war and how our soldiers both male and female fulfilled their duty to help our people.

This was followed by the speech of lawyer Anura Hegoda, a well known poet, writer and columnist, explaining how poetry has helped build up the literary traditions in our country. These were also made lively by his recitation of the poems together with the relevant images from the pages of the book. He made a special mention about the poem Daya had written for the international women’s day, which depicted the unique role of the woman  as a friend, a mother, a wife and a fiancée and how Earth would be a barren and useless place if she was gone for good.

The third speaker was Mr Neville De Silva, the former Deputy Sri Lanka High Commissioner in London until his retirement a few months back.  Mr Silva had been a senior journalist at Lake House as well as in an international role over a long time in Hong Kong etc. He had known Daya as a junior journalist from over three decades back in Colombo and recalled Daya’s enthusiasm in the newspaper field. He spoke in English and outlined the role English poetry too had played in journalism as well as in communication and media. He illustrated them with examples from English poets such as Tennyson, Byron and Shakespeare.

This was followed by a speech by Daya Ranasinghe as the author of the publication. He outlined the long and difficult period of initiating the paper Lanka Viththi and the hardships people underwent during the long war waged by the tiger terrorists  against our people and how our heroic soldiers faced those atrocities.

Rupa Kavya anthology was printed in London to the UK printing standards. Obviously all colour photographs in it influence the interpretation of author’s poetic lines taking the reader to a higher level of aesthetic experience. The attractive cover design and layout of all pages were done by Shereen Kariyakarawana - an experienced book designer and art director living in London. With all this, it’s clear that Rupa Kavya is a lofty attempt of taking Sinhala poem and comeliness to the western reader.  

Daya recounted how Lanka Viththi readers phoned him frequently just to say how moved they were after reading the verse on the front page.  This encouraged him to write more interesting lines that caught the hearts of the readers, he said.

Daya also explained what made him to translate the Sinhala poem into English. It was a request of a little boy, a son of a Sinhala family living in the UK. The boy could not speak or understand Sinhala, and thought an English translation would benefit who were not familiar with Sinhala. So the Lanka Viththi  issue of the following month carried two verses, one Sinhala and  the other in English said Daya.

The melodic recitation of the poems from Rupa Kavya by Daya Ranasinghe and Suneetha Perera filled up the time between speeches and kept the audience enthralled until close to seven o’clock in the evening. It was really a nostalgic journey back to the recent past for all the literary enthusiasts who had been associated with the newspaper ‘ Lanka Viththi.’


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Photographs by Tissa Madawela

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