Photo Poetry born out of war
Posted on September 8th, 2014

Janaka Perera

Roopa Kavya (Photo Poetry) a collection of pictorial poems in Sinhala and English published in Lanka Viththi, the first Sinhala newspaper published in the United Kingdom, was launched at the Mahaweli Centre Auditorium, Colombo on Thursday September 4 amidst a large gathering including leading intellectuals, artists, authors, journalists  and cinema and TV personalities.

Lanka Viththi was launched by Daya Ananda Ranasinghe in April, 1997 at a time when Sri Lanka was being unjustly vilified in the many countries over the State’s attempts to crush LTTE’s separatist terrorism.  Most Sinhala expatriates in the West were demoralized and dispirited during those dark years since they were the main target of attacks by the pro-Tiger Tamil Diaspora and their backers in the so-called international community and INGOs.  At the time there were 14 Tamil newspapers in London alone whereas not a single Sinhala newspaper anywhere in the UK.

Although Lanka Viththi  ceased publication in 2013, during the 16 year-period it was in circulation not only in the UK but also in other Western countries it lifted the spirits of Sinhala readers and strengthened their will to do whatever they could do for the welfare of the land of their birth.  Sinhala expatriates from many countries sent articles, letters and other contributions to the paper. Soldiers at the battle front in Sri Lanka too wrote poetry to Lanka Viththi which generated an indescribable emotional attachment in the hearts of the Sinhala expatriates towards their native country. 

Following is the English Translation of one of the poems about reminiscences of the Sinhala New Year at the height of the war:

If you remember the New Year as I do

Don’t you year, if possible of gong home? 

If that land was free from terrible war and fear

Oh! How beautiful and happy it would be, The Sinhala New Year!”

The paper had two pages for military personnel to make their contributions in the form of poetry and short essays and messages. These issues were distributed among the troops. The paper was printed at Daya’s own expense and distributed free. It had only a few advertisements unlike some other newspapers which were distributed free in the UK.

Roopa Kavya printed in London, UK carries a number of carefully selected photos with captions in verses in both Sinhala and English.  Although Daya had been living in London for 35 years his collection of poems reflect his deep love for his motherland. The theme of  Lanka Viththi was My mother and motherland is heaven to me.”

 To quote Daya Ranasinghe:

Every month when I penned down a verse musing on the photograph that would grace Lanka Viththi front page, to me it was just like doing a sacred service. I did it with careful devotion. Also it was a time our country was undergoing all sorts of calamities. Terrorism was the order of the day. What we heard from our motherland were continuous weeping and wailing.”

After leaving Sri Lanka towards the end of the month Daya hopes to hold two similar launching events among the Sinhala expatriates in France and Israel.

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