Born Free Art Competition 2011 – Thanmalwila Division
When Born Free Sri Lanka organised an art competition at Rathambalagama School in 2010, Ms Monohari Fonseka, the Director of Divisional Education Office (DEO) - Thanamalwila, suggested doing another art competition in 2011 with the participation of all the schools of Thanamalwila Division. Since this was a good opportunity to spread the word of human-elephant coexistence and elephant welfare among the school children, Born Free Sri Lanka decided to launch the project in mid 2011.
The first step was to discuss the project plan with Ms. Fonseka. Born Free and the DEO sent letters to 32 schools in the Division calling on entries. We decided to hold the competition in four categories: (1). Grades 1-2 (2). Grades 3-5 (3). Grades 6-8 (4). Grade 9-11. The themes were: The Forest, the Elephants and Us (Categories 1 and2), Human-Elephant Friendship (Category 3) and A Better Future for Human and Elephants (Category 4).
We planned to select first, second, third and 7 merit places from each category to be awarded. All the winners were suggested to receive a certificate while the first three places were to be gifted. DEO took the responsibility of organising the schools to take part in the event and Born Free facilitated the rest of the project.
Entries were collected by the end of June and were judged by Born Free Sri Lanka and the Divisional Education Office. It was not an easy task to judge 230 entries, which were so vivid and had several important conservation messages at the same time. Meanwhile, we had discussions with the Warden of Udawalawa National Park to hold an exhibition of winning entries and to facilitate the awarding ceremony at the park auditorium.
Two entries are worth special mention here. Nethsara Nadeesha of Grade 2 painted elephants in blue and red, beyond the regular colour black, and not only that he thought to draw trees in yellow, while keeping the background orange. Divisional Director (Art) chose this entry as the First Place of Category I saying that this colour combination is so genuine and the entry can’t be of anybody else but of a kid of a primary Grade!
Divon Lakshan of Grade 9 drew his entry the exact opposite of the title of his Category – A better future for human and elephants. It showed a depressed working elephant in a barren land. The colors he chose depicted the sadness of the story he wanted to say.
The exhibition and the awarding ceremony took place on the 2nd August. Born Free Sri Lanka volunteers did a great job organising the event, while the National Park staff assisted us to make the event a big success. The DEO had invited all the winners and two staff from each of the respective schools to participate in the event. There were about 80 invitees, altogether.
All the invitees were given refreshment just before starting the day’s event. The Exhibition was the first to be done; it had all 40 winning entries and about 10 more special entries which discussed the themes in special different ways. It was opened by Mr. Jagath Rathanayaka, a member of Pradeshiya Sabha and Ms. Manohari Fonseka. Invitees were really happy to see the exhibition, the children and the teachers were the happiest.
After the exhibition, we started the awarding ceremony with the welcome speech given by Ms. Fonseka. She explained how Born Free and the DEO organised this competition, highlighting the objectives of that exercise. She encouraged Born Free to continue working on elephant conservation in the area and wished us all the best. Mr. Jagath and the principal, Rathambalagama School too appreciated Born Free’s local programmes. Finally, Born Free’s Sri Lanka Country Representative, Dr. Deepani Jayantha, addressed the gathering and explained how Born Free’s vision positively directs us to look at the endangered wild species which are in conflict with humans, while promoting human-wild animal coexistence. She conducted a brief discussion on special entries of the completion to identify and understand what messages the children wanted to pass through their paintings. The discussion was very effective; a many interesting aspects of human-elephant relationships were considered in the discussion.
After the ceremony all the invitees visited Udawalawa National Park. It was arranged by Born Free to give the local school children an essence of wildlife around them. For almost all the invitees the park visit was their first experience of the kind even though they all live around the park. A wildlife guard helped us with interpretation. It was a great time for the children and they talked excitedly about it with each other.
It was lunch time at the end. Ms.Fonseka and other staff at the DEO along with the teachers thanked Born Free for the day’s programme. They invited us to continue our work with the DEO in the future. The idea was to hold different student competitions every year on the theme of wildlife conservation in the area. We all felt that the Born Free art competition 2011 was a very encouraging start.