On a new way of seeing !


“Blessed are the weird people–poets, misfits, writers, mystics…painters & troubadours–for they teach us to see the world through different eyes.” Jacob Nordby

300 profile MaryanneGaya’s Intro: Maryanne is a rare person and her story is unique. She is young, a Nigerian graduate, hands-on mother of two lively sons and lives in Sri Lanka like an ordinary Sri Lankan person, not like an expat. She braved the administrative red tape and passed the Open University exams to qualify as a Special Needs teacher. She is a friend and so is Tharindu. Wonderful people living in Sri Lanka as she should be lived. I saw a different Sri Lanka through Maryanne’s eyes and somehow find her living there an interesting take on a country many of us only know so much about; our view, our perspective. Read her earlier writings especially on the encounter at the Blind School in Ratmalana. Respect !!


Truth is I miss Nigeria.  Not everything about Nigeria, just the version of Nigeria that I fondly remember. The sight of Fulani herders making their way through drying shrubs with their cattle; Gwari women carrying sky high loads of chopped up wood in calabashes on their necks, because it is taboo to carry it on their heads.

I miss seeing all these things that remind me of the remnants of a life slowing being replaced by technology and urbanization.  Nigeria, particularly northern Nigeria inspires me. Leaving it has taken out a significant piece of me that cannot be replaced by anything else. The Nigerian sense of humor, the food, the extended family drama, and all the reasons that made it home to me cannot be found any where else!

After five years in Sri Lanka I have still not yet filled that gap in my soul that is created by leaving home. I find my self slowing remembering less and less, all the things that made Nigeria home, the taste of fura de nono has been replaced by thambili, the aroma of kosia frying by the road side has been replaced by waddai.

For a while now, I have felt my self floating in a disconsolate vision of an identity that defies definition, particularly, creatively speaking. I struggle to find my voice as a writer, side by side learning the mechanics of the craft. Whilst trying to figure out how much of Nigeria I can still piece together on a page from memory, and how much of Sri Lanka truly inspires me. It shouldn’t be a conscious decision I know, I should just write what I know, and the best way I can, and my work will find its way to the right place one way or another.

Yet lately, I have found that certain things arouse me, those things that make me want to apply glue to a seat and stay there till my fingers have typed out every word in my mind. A sight, a sound, a longing for something more, all stir in me the need to write again, my identity crises be damned. One of the things that stir up my muse is photography by Tharindu Amunugama.

A new way of seeing 2I have been exposed to his work for a while now, after glancing through his coffee table book Glorious Jaffna, I was at once captivated by his ability to capture simple details that tell intricate tales.  However, it took a while longer to appreciate his knack for seeing beauty in the mundane. By nature, I consider myself pragmatic to a fault. It hinders my creativity because I tend to think of the profound issues of life, such as ending world hunger or ending the rape of women and children in war-torn Congo. I have always felt that creativity should begin and end where it can solve some serious human issue, not a whimsical pursuit of beauty.

Yet lately, through exposure to his photographs, I’ve slowly grown to see things differently. Now I think to myself, perhaps instead of spending all my energy worrying about things I can not change, I can try to find pleasure in the seemingly insignificant things in life

Recently, on a trip to Matara, I find the heat unbearable, the congestion of the city and the noise of the vehicles speeding past begin to irritate me. We are about to cross a bridge, when he gets down from the Tuk Tuk to take a picture. I kept thinking “what on earth did he want to capture in this ugly town?” But when he returned, and showed me the shot he had taken of a mosque lying beside the murky water, my senses were jarred by the beauty he had spotted, when all I could see was a concrete jungle. I hadn’t even noticed that particular building, I was too flustered by the heat and the noise and just wanted to get away. Seeing his photo, awakened me to the realization that I just might be missing details around me, brief sights, which hold an unintentional magnificence.

A new way of seeing 1At a temple, with a giant sitting Buddha, he captures a picture of a stature kneeling in worship. An otherwise grotesque image takes on new meaning   as his focus on the image raises questions why? What did this image represent, and why was it so misshapen? Again, I had not seen the image in that light, I did see it, but his photograph of the image took on a fresh perspective.

His pictures often beckon me into his world, they seduce me into slowing down and taking a breath to stop and focus on colors, gestures and the subtleties that make Sri Lanka unique.  The inanimate, come alive in his images, telling me tales of a people   and a place I am coming to know. Through his photographs, possibilities awaken in my listless mind, I am stirred into thinking that Sri Lanka may never be Nigeria, but there is something quintessentially familiar, that I can acclimatize to, and find a new home for my rootless heart.


Speak Your Mind