The annual Kala Pola brings the country’s talented artistes and sculptors together on a common platform. This much awaited open-air feast will be held this year on January 27 from 8 am to 6 pm at the Nelum Pokuna Mawatha (formerly Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha) near the Colombo Art Gallery.
This event is organized by the George Keyt Foundation, which in its 22 years has played a vital role in promoting and developing visual arts in Sri Lanka. Although Kala Pola takes place once a year, there are artists who come to the same location on a regular basis, especially during weekends to meet their clientele.
Though born a Burgher Christian, George Keyt immersed himself in Buddhist philosophy and even contemplated entering the Buddhist clergy.
The magnificent murals depicting the life of the Lord Buddha at the Gotami Vihare in Borella are among his enduring contributions to Buddhist culture. In 1983, the Sri Lanka Postal Department, when issuing Vesak commemorative postage stamps, featured some of these murals.
His knowledge of Hindu philosophy, art and culture was also extensive, and is reflected in the themes of many of his paintings, as well as his poetry and writings, including the translation of Jayadeva’s Sanskrit classic, the Gita Govinda.
His manifold achievements need to be placed in the larger context of South Asia’s rich and varied cultural heritage. William G. Archer of the British Museum, in his pioneering 1959 book, ‘India and Modern Art’, placed him then, together with the Indian painters, Rabindranath Tagore, Amrit Sher-Gil and Jamini Roy, as the four greatest modern artists of the South Asian sub-continental cultural matrix.
The first ‘Kala Pola’ in 1993, which Keyt personally attended, attracted a modest number of around 30 Sri Lankan artists. For ‘Kala Pola 2013’, well over 300 artists have registered as participants and will be exhibiting their works on Nelum Pokuna Mawatha.
The contribution that Kala Pola makes to the careers of emerging painters and sculptors from all parts of Sri Lanka is enhancing each year. A major legacy of Keyt is therefore the opportunity his talents and creativity have come to afford young artists. This includes, in particular the opportunity provided to them to present their work to the increasingly large and diverse public that annually visits the Kala Pola.