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Center uses arts to build cultural bridges

Promoting unity among Tamils and Sinhalese

A Kandian Sinhala dance performed by a CPArts member during a recent festival to mark the 46th anniversary A Kandian Sinhala dance performed by a CPArts member during a recent festival to mark the 46th anniversary
  • ucanews.com reporter, Vavuniya
  • Sri Lanka
  • December 22, 2011
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A Catholic cultural center is using the creative arts to help forge closer relationships between Sinhalese and Tamil communities and create what they call ambassadors of peace and development to heal rifts created during years of civil conflict.

The Center for Performing Arts (CPArts) has organized arts festivals aimed at helping the two communities to better understand each other’s cultural and religious backgrounds and to lay the foundation for better cooperation and unity in the future.

Father Nicholapillai Maria Saveri said the programs inculcate human and humane values to identify and foster literary and aesthetic talents for the promotion of peace and the building of cultural bridges.

“We develop understanding and interconnect individuals separated by language, religion, ethnicity, cultural attitudes and habits through the use of art,” he said.

He said the programs, which are designed for adults and youths, include dancing, drama and folk music performances to help Sinhalese and Tamils to appreciate each other’s cultures and to build cross-cultural friendships.

“It helps to heal the division between Tamils and Sinhalese. They can express their feelings, how they have lost everything during the war, [and] they are given an opportunity to help each other overcome post-war challenges.”

CPArts operates 20 arts centers, which also offer language training.

Parameswary Arunacellam, a Tamil member of the Trincomalee Center, said that participants can also learn a trade that will help them earn a living.

“CPArts has organized handicraft and embroidery workshops for women. At present, they earn money through self-employment,” she said.

Buddhist monk Meewellawe Dhamakithi Thero, a Sinhala, has funded a scholarship for a Tamil girl to enter school.

“I send money to a 10-year-old Hindu Tamil girl … for her studies every month,” said the monk, who heads the Sri Sarananandha Buddhist Center in Anuradhapura.

“Through arts we can create unity among communities.”

The monk also said that most CPArts members work on a volunteer basis.

CPArts was founded by Fr Saveri in 1965 as a theatre group in Jaffna under the name Thirumarai Kalamanrame.

The organization also has centers in Switzerland, Norway, India, Canada, England, Germany and Australia.

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