Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)
Ena’s crafts make comeback for Bawa centenary celebrations
De Silva + Bawa: Craft + Architecture, an exhibition of Ena de Silva-designed batik and craft produced in collaboration with Geoffrey Bawa for his most iconic architectural projects, will be open to the public from January 23 to February 4, in the Urban Island Artspace, 181 Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 7.
The exhibition has been timed to complement the celebrations underway for “Bawa 100”( Bawa’s birth centenary) as Ena de Silva was a collaborator, peer and friend of the legendary architect. Exhibition curator Amila de Mel said, “We are delighted to celebrate the work of Ena de Silva and her extraordinary artisans. Not everyone realizes the extent to which superb craft, particularly that of Ms de Silva, was integrated into Mr Bawa’s architectural vision. And this creative collaboration has influenced the next generation of Sri Lankan architects.”
More generally, “De Silva + Bawa” will celebrate the virtuosity and richness of the work produced by Ms de Silva and the artisan cooperatives she founded in Aluwihare.
Ena de Silva (1922 - 2015) was an outstanding Sri Lankan artist and designer, particularly noted for her leading role in developing Sri Lanka’s contemporary batik industry. She first worked with Geoffrey Bawa in 1960 after she and her husband approached the architect to design a house for them in Colombo. She subsequently developed a long-term professional relationship with
Mr Bawa which included designing batik flags and ceiling and wall panels for his buildings amongst other things. Ms de Silva established the Matale Heritage Centre, a cooperative of highly talented artisans, in 1964. The cooperative (now called the Aluwihare Heritage Centre) continues to operate producing exquisite batik and other handmade items.
General Manager of Urban Island Ishara Wijemanne said, “A wide range of Ena de Silva designed items will be on display including ceiling and wall panels, flags, clothing, tableware, sculptures, and wood and metal artifacts produced for major architectural projects. We are grateful to the various organisations that have loaned us pieces for display.”
“Urban Island is delighted to host this exhibition as it very much fits in with our commitment to promoting the very best of Sri Lankan design and craft,” she added.
A consortium of public and private organizations committed to promoting Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage and nurturing design and craft talent are behind the exhibition. These organizations include ADM Architects Colombo, AOD Design Academy, Cinnamon Hotels, Design for Sustainable Development Foundation (DFSD), the Aluwihare Heritage Centre, the Geoffrey Bawa Trust, Cinnamon Life, John Keells Foundation, Lunuganga Trust, and Urban Island.