UCA News

Sri Lanka


Updated: June 24, 2002 05:00 PM GMT
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A renowned Catholic cartoonist in Sri Lanka held an exhibition to celebrate the 30th anniversary of one of his cartoon characters.

Cartoonist Camillus Perera held the exhibition June 13-17 at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall in Colombo at the request of fans of the character "Gajaman."

Perera told UCA News June 15 that of all his cartoon characters he feels most proud of Gajaman, who comes from a poor, working class family.

Apart from Gajaman, the exhibition featured 18 of Perera´s other cartoon characters. All of them are downtrodden and from the lower strata of society except for "Magodisthuma," a parliamentarian symbolizing today´s crafty politicians.

As a tribute to Perera, the Singhalese-language Church weekly "Gnanartha Pradeepaya" (light of wisdom) ran an editorial lauding the cartoonist´s "unique insight" and his role as a "social reformer."

Father Benedict Joseph, editor of the weekly, noted in the June 23 editorial that Perera has been "faithful to the Church" and its teachings.

Perera said, "A few strokes of a pen do not constitute a satirical cartoon. They are caricatures of persons and events across the spectrum of society, and as a cartoonist, I use my God-given talents to translate them into a cartoon strip."

"It has been my objective to focus public attention on iniquities, injustices and absurdities in society and to prompt readers to question why things continue the way they do," he explained.

However, he said, "It has never been my intention to humiliate another through the medium of my cartoon."

Professor Sunil Ariyaratne, a university lecturer and a lyricist, said at the opening of the exhibition, "It is easy to make people cry, but it is difficult to make them laugh."

"To add meaning to their laughter is even more difficult, and Perera has been engaged in this task with success," added the Buddhist professor.

Perera, 62, was born in Negombo, a predominantly Catholic town just north of Colombo. In 1960 he started drawing for the parish notice board.

Later he produced his first newspaper cartoons for "Silumina," a national Singhalese weekly.

However, he said he had to stop his work due to religious discrimination. Undeterred by rejections from newspaper editors, he started again in 1966 with the character "Thepanis," featured in the "Dawasa" (day) Singhalese daily.

Over the years he developed several cartoon strips that appeared in most national newspapers and periodicals.

In 1986 he founded Camillus Publications. For a period of time he published "Asiri" (blessings), a religious weekly for Catholic children, but it was discontinued.

Camillus Publications currently puts out a variety of publications, including educational materials for students.

Commenting on his achievements, Perera said, "I strongly believe that it is the Holy Spirit that guides me in this work. Sometimes when I need thoughts for my cartoons, I pray."

Among the special guests at the opening of the exhibition were Archbishop Nicholas Marcus Fernando of Colombo, Venerable Marapana Vijitha Thero, a Buddhist monk, and Power and Energy Minister Karu Jayasuriya.

Opposition leader Mahinda Rajapakse as well as Catholic ministers and parliamentarians were also present at the exhibition that was open to the public free of charge.


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