Juliet Coombe discovers heartstring pulling and puppets at the stunningly beautiful Calamansi Cove by Jetwing!
An amazing cove of colours that will help you rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit, and also see the very best of what the island has to offer. The area is a hub of artistic talent akin to the South of France and one of the many reasons the owners, who come from the incredibly exciting world of advertising, decided to build their resort in this hidden gem that ‘those in the know’ are calling Asia’s Southern Riviera. Eveline, one of the partners in the business, loves to encourage creativity both in the kitchen with exciting new dishes like avocado mousse and with daily activities that capture the voodoo of the location.
Unforgettable experiences like the art and artisan half day guided tour of the area by Janaka De Silva is something everyone should do before they die. His tour includes showing you how he creates work with everything from a porcupine quill to an ice cream stick, while embodying a painting tradition rich in heritage and island traditions. Janaka’s work takes inspiration from the era of the great Kings and the Dambulla cave painters to the contemporary and the political, which you can see in The Galle Fort Art Gallery in the ancient fort citadel, only a short drive from Calamansi Cove by Jetwing.
From winning awards to having his own art shop at the Dutch Hospital complex in Galle Fort on Hospital Street, Janaka’s merging of the ancient with unusual canvases, like Dutch boxes and wooden hand painted bowls, have left an indelible impression in the South. He has also built his own Salon of leading artists, who are now movers and shakers in the Asian art world.
Janaka on the Calamansi art tour takes you into many artists homes to see medicine-mask makers workshops, and explains the contrast in carving style between masks made for theatrical purposes and those made to protect houses from evil spirits. His tours are interactive so you can have a go at making your own and learn in the process just how hard it is to carve details into wood. Although he says children never find it difficult to be creative resulting in some pretty special masterpieces from his mask making classes, which include creating natural paints by mixing the grated pieces of bark with clay and vinegar to make a range of earthy warm colours.
Janaka happily answers questions on how modern life has taken a heavy toll on ancient practices and how some of the traditional performing Ambalangoda families, such as the puppeteers, are the last in the country, with only three historic puppetry families remaining, who have been in the trade for generations. The cultural and historical significance is high and the preservation of this traditional art is now paramount, because without those special individuals who make up this heritage-rich town, the ancient crafts will be lost forever.
As the tour ends with questions and answers at Calamansi Cove by Jetwing, I feel like the saying “We are only puppets, our strings are being pulled by unknown forces.” However many days you decide to stay, you won’t regret it whatever forces cause your heartstrings to book this oasis of inspiration. Each bedroom named after a tropical fruit is reflected in the gorgeus colour scheme of the beautiful tropical garden that each of the villa rooms seems to float within, like water lilies on the Great Kings tank . In truth there really is nothing else out there quite like it.