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I found an old connect the dots book I received from an artist some years ago on assignment and decided to give it a go…. The dots connect all through the book of which the pages are connected until the last.
It helped relax my mind and clear my thoughts. I should make this a habit 😊
“Self portraits are unusually very beautiful almost all the time and I always wondered why this was. Is that really how we see ourselves or is it another’s perception of how we look? I wanted to look deep inside and really take a look at how I saw myself. I wanted to first make a connection with myself before making a connection with the society. That is why I think inner sounds and emotions are very important. That is the ideology and inspiration of this exhibition,” explained Manoranjana Herath.
His most recent and 18th solo exhibition was held at the Barefoot Gallery earlier this year. The exhibition included 20 paintings and 15 sculptures.
I find that it isn’t easy to talk things out. I know i’m not the only one when I say it’s difficult to open up and speak about how you feel and what you think wholeheartedly. This is the fault in us as humans. We keep so much to ourselves even without realizing it. Herath agrees and admits that he himself is much like that. “What we feel and think inside, is what I have tried to depict in my work. I feel that the more the world moves forward, the more we keep to ourselves. That constriction and limitation of emotions are depicted in terms of the dark colours I’ve used.”
Herath’s self portraits say so much with little. A hundred faces within a single face. Constrictions within constrictions. This is a day to day matter. He explained that he has the habit of adding other mediums to his paintings as well as actual photographs of himself from the age of 12 to make it seem more appealing. I find that this way, he reaches out a step further than usual and viewers would be able to connect deeper. He says the fact that his portraits are dark and grey and also because people are not honest and trustworthy any longer. There is a lot of dishonesty, distrust and falsehood in the world, and so there are deep shadows in his work to depict this.
“My sculptors are also self imaged makes. I’ve used different materials on them as well to send out different ideologies and messages. In one I’ve placed a fish bowl at the base. The water shows the reflection of the sculpture. I find that even when someone is hiding something, there is always a way of finding out what’s deep inside, even through their reflection. One other sculpture has arrows pointed towards the centre. The heart is visible. This can be interpreted in many different ways. I like to think that the arrows are struggles and hurdles in life; all aimed at breaking the heart. So in this way, all of what is exhibited tells a story; a story of the inner sounds within themselves and within ourselves.”
Herath began his work on this exhibition as a project. He admits that he often draws sketches of his sculptures so that he has a rough idea as to how he wants it to turn out. “I have a visual image of it in my mind and ocassionally it does come out the way I want it too. But sometimes, when I look at a finished sculpture I have different thoughts running in my head and then I change the look of it,” he said. To him, art is a form of expression. It was his creative inclination during his early adulthood years that steered him towards the art stream and led him to becoming a senior lecturer of the Department of Sculpture at the University of Visual and Performing Arts in Colombo today.
“The art of sculptures isn’t for everyone. Each artist has a different passion within art itself. For me, I simply found myself steering down this path and for what reason I quite do not know. I love that I can use my hands in the uttermost manner to say how I feel within myself. It gives me a lot of freedom; the kind that sometimes I find difficult to put into words. I am able to make someone think, ponder, smile, be angry, hurt and laugh with what I can create. That to me is the greatest achievement as an artist.”
**As published in the Ceylon Today newspapers**
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When I went on my Hajj pilgrimage, the tour group that I went with also organized mini activities for some of the extra days we had in Makkah and Medina. Many might not know of its existence but my group and I were taken to visit the exhibition of the two holy mosques’ architecture while we were in Makkah.
Located about an hour’s bus ride away from the main city, this exhibition museum is in the Umm Al-Jude area. This is also the area in which the Kiswa factory exists. This is where the black cloth that is draped over the Kaa’ba is stitched and put together. Private taxis can be hired to visit this place and probably cost less that 200 Saudi riyals both ways.
This museum is home to a large selection of items that date back to the 10th Hijri (in the Islamic calendar) and that were part of the holy mosque in Makkah (the Haram) and Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) mosque in Medina.
It is obvious that some parts of the two mosques like its doors and windows would have been replaced over the years. Its olden parts and inventory are some of what can be seen in this museum today. I personally do not know if there is a certain time period during which this museum is open and closed to the public but if you wish to visit it while you are in Makkah, do be sure to check before driving for over an hour to get there and for it all to be in vain.
The museum includes a main hall which contains the two models of the two holy mosques. Next is the Hall of the Kaa’ba, which contains the models of the Kiswa (covering of Kaa’ba), the old door of Kaa’ba, the weaving machines for the manufacture of the Kiswa and other collectibles. The Hall of Photography includes rare photographs of the two holy mosques. Models of calligraphy in the two Holy Mosques, and a copy of the Holy Qur’an illustrated by Osman bin Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) can be found in the Hall of Manuscripts. The Hall of Zam-Zam includes the general framework of Zam-Zam well prepared in the early 14th Century Hijri and old inscriptions and photographs of the old and new wells of Zam-Zam. And lastly, the Hall of the Prophet’s (PBUH) Mosque includes rare artefacts, in addition to photographs.
The Haram and the Kaa’ba
Two Ka’aba doors were said to have been made during the Saudi rule. The first one was at the time of King Abdul Aziz’s rule in 1363H (1944). It was made of aluminium, buttressed by iron bars and was 2.5 centimetres thick and 3.1 metres high. The front side of the door was covered with silver sheets coated with gold and decorated with inscriptions of Allah’s attributes. While King Khalid bin Abdul Aziz was praying in the Ka’aba in 1393H, he saw some scratches on the door and issued a directive to make the second door, the Bab Al-Tawba, from pure gold. The old door is exhibited at the museum.
Zam-Zam water is freely available around the Haram today. Multiple tabs and bottled containers make this possible. But in the past, the water could only be accessed from the original Zam-Zam well. This well covering and brass bucket is also one of the exhibits of the museum.
All who visit the Haram would notice stone, granite and marble pillars carved with Islamic inscriptions. These too are replaced over the years. Keep in mind that the Haram is rebuilt and reconstructed almost every single year and hence, there are many old parts and items that are replaced and renewed. These include marbled doors, wooden stairways, the old keys and locks of the Kaa’ba, copper fences and so on.
The Prophet’s (PBUH) mosque
This mosque too has undergone changes over the years. Today, it can accommodate over a million worshippers inside its walls as well as outside in its courtyard. Brass, copper and marble are common features once again in many of the items that can be seen in the mosque and in this museum.
Large brass windows with beautiful floral designs stand tall on one side of the wall at the museum of architecture. Next to it, marble pillars gleam in white. An old minaret and brass crescent can also be viewed.
The photographic hall is of great interest. It is a lovely sight to see old images of the two mosques. The Haram has undergone too many changes and looks almost unrecognizable whereas the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) mosque is somewhat similar still today.
Many of the items at the Museum of Architecture are enclosed in glass boxes and behind closed off sections. This is because many Muslims visit from around the world and almost always love to touch and feel these artefacts and items. It might be a tight walk around the entire museum because of the crowd of Muslims that throng inside, but it is definitely worth the while because it is an eye-opener to what used to be and how different they are today.
**As published in the Ceylon Today newspaper**