'Ekath Ehemeda' - asks Shantha Herrath

'Ekath Ehemeda' - asks Shantha k Herath 


 It was a late afternoon sometime last week. The lanky youngster was busy explaining his art to a few people who had walked into the National Library Services Board auditorium to view the 'Sakku Cartoon Ekathuwa' (Collection of pocket cartoons). Artist Shantha K. Herrath had picked some of his work over the past two decades for the exhibition - possibly a 'first' where pocket cartoons are concerned. We are used to enjoying Shantha's work on topical issues every morning on page one of the Divaina. But to see most of it in a single collection along with a lot of caricatures of leading political figures and his other efforts was a refreshing experience.

Only a few may have known that it was Shantha who gave the innovative treatment to the weekly supplement on arts in the daily Divaina sometime back. (He is presently the Art Editor). The few pages that were exhibited showed a totally new approach to page layouts. There was a freshness in them. One could see the genuine effort made by a creative artiste to do something new. The pages were bold layouts with one or two impressive black and white pictures - sometimes with a lot of white space. The impact was eye catching. One had a feature on the renowned sculptor Surendra. A dominating picture of one of Surendra's creations, a portrait of the sculptor and the write-up about his creations had been presented effectively.

Describing how he tried to be different to other cartoonists who had made a name for themselves, Shantha says he tried to give a mobile effect to the drawing to make a sharp statement and scribbled the words without using the typed letters. The result was a series of pocket cartoons titled 'Ekath Ehemeda' (Is that so) adorning the front page of the Divaina for three years. "The objective of my pocket cartoon was to use a headline appearing in the newspaper to kindle subtle humour while bringing to the attention of the reader a weakness prevalent in society," he explains.

Referring to the different classification of art (pure, commercial and applied), he believes that under whatever category, a creative artist is able to produce quality work based on his understanding of the medium, his mastery of skill and his perception of the society he lives in.

Shantha's exhibtion marked the release of a collection of his pocket cartoons in book form - a 'must' for anyone's library because it reflects the social, political and economic environment that existed in the country in the eighties. As renowned cartoonist Wijesoma says, Shantha's book of cartoons "makes you look at the most serious situations in a lighter vein."

Wijesoma sees Shantha as a cartoonist who introduced a new style, breaking away from the traditional, to the pocket cartoon, not seen in Sinhala newspapers before.

In the book, Shantha has presented the cartoons in an interesting way. In the first few pages he reproduces the newspaper pages with his cartoons in the exact format they appeared in. Thereafter he has devoted a page for each cartoon with a news headline indicating the topic which prompted him to draw the cartoon and the cartoon with his wording. There is an English translation given to each so that even a non-Sinhala reader is able to enjoy it. A good thought.

It's well worth having Shantha's book of cartoons in anyone's collection.

Kala Korner by Dee Cee

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