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 Post subject: Sri Lanka Orphans Tell Colorful Stories
 Post Posted: Sun Jul 17, 2005 6:42 pm 
Sri Lanka Orphans Tell Colorful Stories

July 14, 2005

Alyson Sena , Reporter
Copyright 2005 Pacific Palisades Post, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

Photo / Rich Schmitt, Staff Photographer
"Rubber Harvest" by Niluka, 19, who arrived at the Sri Yasodara Orphanage in 1997. Her painting was chosen to be the Christmas card for the Sri Lankan ambassador to the United States.

Even in disaster, color abounds. The aqua blue, lime green and saffron-colored images that brighten the walls of Terri's Restaurant in Pacific Palisades tell many stories of life in Sri Lanka before and after the tsunami pummeled the island off the coast of India last December.

Most of the narrative paintings are colorful expressions of women harvesting the fields or bathing in a stream, but some portray scenes of upturned cars, people and houses swirling in a blue sea or a tearful woman clutching her baby. The striking images pop off the walls at Terri's, many accompanied by photographs of the children who created them.

The young artists live at the Sri Yasodara Orphanage, located near Colombo, the capital, and only half a mile from one of the tsunami disaster areas. Many of them are girls who have lost their parents to the civil war between the Tamil Tigers terrorist group and the Sinhalese government; others to suicide or extreme poverty.

What is perhaps most moving is that these orphans' illustrations, which are available for sale at Terri's, will help raise funds for the orphanage to take on an additional 50 children who lost their parents in the tsunami. The money will go to basic needs for the orphans, such as clean food and lodging, as well as to their education and endowment funds.

Loku Maniyo, a Buddhist nun who started Sri Yasodara in 1985, has already rented another facility to house some of the children in Weligama, a southern coastal village that was hit particularly hard by the tsunami. The home, called Yasodara Shanti Nikethanaya Hostel, will provide lodging for 23 girls, pending government approval.

"The fact that these amazing paintings come from children of war is one thing that gets to people," says not allowed Carr, a Palisades resident who brought the artwork to Terri's through her work with Loku Maniyo and Art Refuge, a program in which children who have experienced trauma or loss paint and tell their stories. Sponsored by Friends of Tibetan Women's Association, Art Refuge first came to Sri Yasodara in 1999.

The painting program is about "bringing all the kids together and teaching them about nonviolent, peaceful conflict resolution," says Carr, 25, daughter of Didi Carr Reuben, whose husband is the senior rabbi at Kehillat Israel. One painting of two soldiers helping a woman is inscribed with "We don't wont wor, We wont peas."

Providing the children with the opportunity to tell their stories has evoked some startling images and memories. One girl, named Nimali, painted "Disaster" about her last memory of her mother, whom she lost when she was a very young child to landslides, or "earthslips" during the monsoon season.

"Nimali remembers her mother had on a green blouse and she remembers her carrying her when the hillsides started crumbling," says Kitty Leaken, program director of Art Refuge, who photographed the artists. "Then they were separated and Nimali woke up in a relief camp in Nuwara Eliya. It was there that Loku Maniyo found her, after she had lost both of her parents."

Because Sri Yasodara Orphanage is not government-funded, the orphans, who range in age from one to 24, do not have to leave when they turn 18. "It's important that we are able to send them to international schools so that they can learn English [in order to qualify for better jobs]," Carr explains. Currently, two of the older girls are studying English through an exchange program in New Zealand.

"Terri's really doing a good deed by having the paintings in the restaurant," Carr says about owner Terri Festa. The restaurant is located at 1028 Swarthmore, across from Mort's Deli.

Carr reproduced the children's original watercolor and oil crayon paintings as giclee prints (high resolution prints in which the image is sprayed in ink onto archival, museum-quality paper). For the 11" by 14" paintings, she is asking a minimum donation of $100; for 16" by 20", a minimum donation of $150; and for 20" by 24", a minimum donation of $175. Note cards with the images are also available for $10 at Village Books, 1049 Swarthmore.

"I do have some originals," says Carr, who has already sold 19 pieces. She began working with Loku Maniyo and Art Refuge in January, and started selling the paintings at Terri's more than two months ago. "It's just another way that I want to educate and make people aware of what's going on at the orphanage, and that there's another way to donate to tsunami relief."

For more information on the Art Refuge project, visit www.artrefuge.org. To purchase a painting, visit Terri's or contact not allowed Carr at not allowed@adelphia.net or 924-9992.

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