Colombo, October 6 (From DailyFT-Harmony Page): The ThriBhasha – Universal Heritage Inspire in collaboration with Sri Lanka’s first virtual book fair took place in the form of a series of language, heritage, knowledge, creation and inspiration focused programs from 15 to 29 September. The virtual book fair was organised by the Read Plus Foundation, a collective of 15 Sri Lankan publishers and headed currently by Dinesh Kulatunga, owner of Neptune Publishers.
ThriBhasha is the local knowledge brand of Universal Heritage Inspire Ltd. and its soft launch was held on 18 September on the virtual book fair platform and the launch series of programs continued on 19, 26 and 29 respectively. The media collaborators for the September sessions of ThriBhasha included the Weekend FT, the Ayubowan Shri Lanka social media YouTube channel and the LakNadha international web radio broadcast over 35 countries.
The ThriBhasha core support team includes but is not limited to Frances Bulathsinghala, Nuwan Priyadarshana, Priyantha Dayarathna, Sudath Rohitha and Subothan Mahadewa who addressed the launch of the 18 September inaugural session representing ThriBhasha – Universal Heritage Inspire and its core philosophy.
The speakers at the 18 September event were M. Safeer and Dinesh Kulatunga of the Read Plus Foundation, Professor of Mass Communication and Chairman Intangible Cultural Heritage National Advisory Board, Prof. Kamal Waleboda, University of Vavuniya Vice Chancellor Dr. T. Mangleswaran, former Bangladesh HC to Sri Lanka, currently the Bangladesh Ambassador to the Netherlands, Riaz Hamidullah, and the veteran expert in Sri Lankan heritage studies former Director of the Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology who had supervised many PhD. programs on Archaeology, Traditional Heritage and Director for the Centre for Heritage and Cultural Studies, Prof. Nimal De Silva.
The 18 September ThriBhasha launch event was compered in Sinhala and English by veteran broadcaster Arun Dias Bandaranaike and in Tamil by academic of the Vavuniya University English Language Teaching Department – Faculty of Business Studies, Antonipillai Nirojith.
The topics dealt with included the ideal role of Sri Lanka’s publishing industry, language as a means to safeguard intangible cultural heritage, education and literacy for national unity, mother language; language as the ‘mother,’ and knowledge and arts; the foundation of a nation.
Language as a theoretical and practical community communication and how it safeguards intangible cultural heritage and how this extends to all people of Sri Lanka including the ancient aboriginal Veddha community were among the points raised by Prof. Kamal Waleboda while University of Vavuniya Vice Chancellor Dr. T. Mangleswaran delivered a comprehensive update on the many gaps in the general theoretical education system we have as a whole which lacks practical and inspirational value while updating the many issues on the gaps in the north in connection with aspects such as literacy, education and employment.
Ambassador Riaz Hamidullah had served as High Commissioner of Bangladesh until last year and worked extensively on art, language and heritage based cultural programs perfecting the use of aesthetics for cementing diplomatic ties between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Ambassador Hamidullah especially raised the point that there are many forms of ‘languages’ connected with the arts such as art and music.
The 19 September ThriBhasha – Universal Heritage program on the virtual book fair platform unravelled the theme of Lankan Roots, Knowledge and Practical Application where the day’s knowledge session was compered by Trivan Annakarage.
The session commenced with National Library of Sri Lanka Director Padma Bandaranayake provided a detailed informative presentation on the contribution of the National Library of Sri Lanka in knowledge generation and re-generation, highlighting the Heritage Knowledge collection available in the form of ancient manuscripts and books. Details were shared about the ‘Bus Library’ initiative where old buses were used as a ‘library’ which was described as a very interesting and attractive means of getting children to read.
The overall goal of ThriBhasha was manifest in the 19 September presentation on the theme of Reading, Knowledge and Practical Application for Entrepreneurship by Dr. Premasiri Gamage, Senior Visiting Lecturer University of Jayawardenepura, Chairman Business Development Centre, Advisor, Ministry of National Heritage, Performing Arts and Rural Arts Promotion. He especially drew on the need for education to be upgraded in such a manner to include practical skills in entrepreneurship and drew upon the training related work that he had carried out in this regard as an academic teaching entrepreneurship at various levels including at universities.
Desheeya Paramparika Waidya Priyantha Dharmawansha Wedamahattaya of the Dekatana Neelakadi Wedagedera delivered a comprehensive talk on the topic of language and knowledge through the lens of ancient knowledge transfer of Sinhala Wedakama focusing especially on the literary nature of how this ancient expertise was passed down from generation to generation. He emphasised the current backdrop in which he was making these comments, referring to the current context where the COVID-19 pandemic is handled almost entirely by the authorities by the Western science lens and not the ancient sciences and heritage inherited by our ancient civilisation.
The need to mainstream Heritage Knowledge as general knowledge by examining the Deshiya Chikitsa, Siddha and Unani knowledge systems was explained by senior lecturer of the Gampaha Wickramarachchi University of Indigenous Medicine, Ayurveda Dr. Udaya Samaratunga who focused on the topic of Sri Lankan Ayurveda as a whole.
Among the highlights of the 19 September session of ThriBhasha was the discussion with book publishers on the topic of Heritage, Culture, Knowledge and the role of the local publication industry moderated by Civil Engineer Priyantha Dayarathne who is a specialist and enthusiast in the concept of the ancient science of Wasthu and Sinhala literature as well as Sanskrit/Pali. The publishers who took part in this discussion were Samayawardhana, Neptune, Sandakada and Thotanne Publishers.
The 28 September ThriBhasha launching series held on the virtual book fair platform was on Knowledge, Life, Art; Meaning and Practice. This third event of ThriBasha was compered by Trilingual SLBC announcer and school teacher on the subject of school literature, Ahmad Nazeer.
The session in September commenced with the opening talk by Prof. Prashanthi Narangoda of the Department of Fine Arts, University of Kelaniya who currently serves as the Director of the SAARC Cultural Centre. Her focus was on the theoretical and practical perspective of language as art and art as language, focusing the art of many ancient cultures and beliefs including the belief in the ancient King of Lanka Ravana and the interpretation of the character and skills of Ravana as per differing Indian and Sri Lankan perspectives.
The interesting aspect of the Lankan intangible cultural heritage in belief/legend’ history was focused upon, on the interpretation of Ravana – as an exceptionally skilled and benevolent ancient king of Lanka whose prestige took a different turn by merging into what could be interpreted as an epic and debatable love story that is believed to have caused the ancient diplomatic rift between India and Sri Lanka.
National knowledge systems, natural heritage and the traditional meaning of technology: Mineral Engineer was covered by Mineral Engineer Dr. Sudath Rohitha, senior academic of the Moratuwa University who is cultivating kos (jackfruit) and other food bearing trees across Sri Lanka with the support of Universal Heritage Inspire Ltd. Providing a systematic presentation, he gave a synopsis in which ancient Lankans managed many feats with minerals, stones and gems from every sphere of sciences including medicine, architecture and design.
He explained the meaning of ‘technology’ taking us away from modern thinking that technology was only ‘modern’ technological devices. He provided information on how Sri Lanka possessed ancient ‘technology’ in many areas including in the food preservation ‘industry,’ once again making us question how these terms are used in current times to be only used synonymous with Western knowledge or terminology.
The absolute relevance of Kumaratunga Munidasa literature for present day Sri Lanka was explained by Priyantha Dharmawansha, veteran Sinhala literature teacher and Dekatana Neelakadi Wedagedera Desheeya Paramparika Wedamahattaya who threw light on the much-ignored fact of the progressive nature of the ideology held by literary and intellectual magnet Kumaratunga Munidasa. Rather than focus on the literary aspects, the talk by Sinhala literature expert Priyantha Dharmawansha touched on little known ideological facts that spelt out the Kumaranga Mudidasa progressiveness.
One example to showcase this was used in the fact that Mudidasa encouraged the learning of English in a unique way to Sri Lanka. The sad fact that there may not be more than one or two copies in Sri Lanka currently preserved of his Heliyo book that had this concept was explained by Dharmawansa. The full context of his speech will be carried on this page in the weeks to come.
The fourth event of ThriBhasha held on the platform of the virtual book fair was on the theme of Universe, Knowledge, Creation and Inspiration. The usually separated and polarised themes of art, education, entrepreneurship, spirituality, mother nature, meditation, inspiration, invention and economics were linked in this session with speakers such as internationally recognised Sri Lankan Artist Nisansala K. Rajapaksa, 2010 Gratiaen award winning poet, Sakunthala Sachithanandan, Self-taught innovator/engineer, Chinthaka Waragoda who is trying to save the ocean of Sri Lanka and Secretary of the Colombo Chamber of Commerce as well as fashion entrepreneur, Dr. Dilesha Perera.