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India backed Centre to Display Cultural Diversity in Sri Lanka

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By Pradeep Seneviratne *

The planned cultural centre will boost South Asian arts and nourish communal harmony, according to the mayor of Jaffna.

With no sizable northern venue for audiences to view her students' dance performances, 46-year-old teacher N. Selvarani always felt the need for a full-fledged cultural centre to showcase the different traditions of dancing and music in northern Sri Lanka.

Now, there is a glimmer of hope.

At the request of the Sri Lankan government, India has come forward to set up a state-of-the-art cultural centre in Jaffna under a Rs.900m ($7m) grant.

"Once this is constructed, a large audience can watch cultural performances such as dances and folklore unique to Jaffna," Selvarani told Khabar South Asia.

"Also, it can serve as a place for cultural exchange programmes. Artists and dance troupes from the south can come and perform here under improved facilities. It will foster cultural ties between the north and the south. We welcome this assistance by India," she said.

Ministry of Culture and the Arts Secretary Wasantha Ekanayake likewise welcomed India's support for the culture of Sri Lanka.

"This help came at a time when we are planning to establish cultural centres covering the entire country," Ekanayake told Khabar. The two nations will conduct cultural exchange programmes at the centre, he said.

"Also, there is a rich tradition of folklore, dancing and folk lyrics in the north and the south," he said, referring to Sri Lanka's own diversity. "People should know these items. We are planning to do a lot of work in this regard."

In a January 17th press release, the High Commission of India in Colombo said India had decided to develop the Jaffna Cultural Centre "as an iconic building that would serve as a cynosure of cultural activities in Northern Sri Lanka".

The centre will enable the people of Jaffna to enjoy local and international cultural events, and will offer training in a variety of cultural disciplines, the statement said.

"It will also create opportunities for networking and co-operation amongst artists and connoisseurs of art from all Sri Lankan communities, including Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese."

The centre will include a 600-seat theatre-style auditorium, a multi-media library and research facility, a museum and exhibition space, an instructional wing with facilities for classes in vocal and instrumental music, dance, and languages, and a conference hall and seminar room.

Speaking in September, Jaffna Mayor Yogeswari Patkunarajah said construction would commence by the end of the year.

"Once this centre is commissioned, it will have facilities for all cultural activities," Patkunarajah told Khabar. "It will be a centre for boosting South Asian culture."

She said the High Commission had also promised to send more Indian artists to train students of the Fine Arts Faculty of Jaffna University, and stressed the importance of cultural activities for communal harmony in Sri Lanka's post-war era.

"Formerly, I was a school principal who worked in Jaffna during the war time. At that time, I knew how the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) did not allow such cultural activities," she said.

[Source: Khabar South Asia]

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