September 22, 2021
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    Mental healing with scrap metal

    October 28, 2019

    Mental patients need both medical treatment and social support. Social stigma should not affect them. We have to unite to help them. A large crocodile lay in the middle of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Angoda. A stork sits on it. They are friends. This giant metal crocodile and the stork came to NIMH from the University of Kelaniya. Now they are healing many mental patients who receive in-house medical treatment at NIMH.

    The story of this crocodile and the stork never stops there. The creator of this crocodile is 29-year-old I. G. Lasitha Vibhasahana, a special degree holder in Visual arts (Assemble Arts) from the University of Kelaniya.

    He created this metal crocodile on the invitation of hospital authorities in order to provide mental solace for the patients who receive medical treatment at the hospital. This is only one of his many similar Assemble Art creations which are now being displayed at leading state and private institutions in the country.

    According to Lasitha, Assemble Arts comes under the subject of Visual Arts. “During the final year of my degree, we had to complete a project, and the project was funded by Ferozsons Pharmaceuticals Limited, Lahore, Pakistan. This institution expected us to create an environment of mental solace for in-house mental patients who receive medical treatment at a state institution in Sri Lanka. This is how I obtained the golden opportunity to show my talent, collecting merit according to my religion and obtaining a lot of support for my university degree. All of my friends (the undergraduates who were in my batch) created various creations under the same project. Senior lecturers attached to the Kelaniya University, Prof. Prashanthi Narangoda and Dr. Priyantha Udagedara guided me,” he said.

    “Patients who suffer from mental diseases are subject to social discrimination and they face a huge social stigma. I wanted to create something new for them to observe and enjoy (have mental peace) while creating an idea for them and the people who visit the patients at NIMH about unity and co-existence. That is why I selected two totally different creatures with totally different characteristics, a stork and a crocodile. I used metal parts which have been disposed or removed from metal equipment, vehicles and so on for my creations. In one way, it helps the environment by disposing of scrap metal. This is something totally new for the patients. They observe it and enjoy it. It helps them to avoid various other distractions and calms their disturbed minds,” Lasitha said.

    “I always study the paintings and artistic creations of world-famous artists. I like Iranian sculptor Hasan Novrozi’s creations. He has created very attractive metal animals by assembling various metal pieces. Californian sculptor Karen Cusolito has created beautiful female postures by using metal pieces. I also like British sculptor Penny Hardy who sculpted metal creations showing various actions,” he said.

    “In addition to Assemble Arts, I also paint. It has been a hobby from childhood and it paved the way for me to enter Kelaniya University. Imaginative assembling is my favorite field. When I was doing my Advanced Level Examination in the Arts stream at Hambantota Vidyartha Maha Vidyalaya, I did not have a teacher for art. But I did not give up. I obtained private tuition from the art teacher attached to Debarawewa National School, Nirmala Jayasuriya, and obtained an ‘A’ for the subject. My family always encouraged me to paint. Before I entered Kelaniya University, I studied at Janakala Kendraya, Battaramulla. It was the place which gave me the required courage, enthusiasm and especially the friendship and companionship to enter Kelaniya University and get a Bachelor of Arts Special Degree in Visual Arts with a Second (Upper) Class. I stepped into the Assemble Arts world because of a new lecturer who joined the Kelaniya University at that time, Prasanna Dharmashri. He gave me a lot of opportunities to grow as an artist and an individual with talents and many contacts,” Lasitha said.

    Lasitha is the youngest in the family. “The most precious woman in my life is my mother. When I was in the second year at Kelaniya University, she fell ill. I was creating a statue of a goddess at that time. She passed away on the same day I completed my creation. Therefore, I will never ever forget that creation of mine. My entire family, teachers, lecturers and friends helped me to reach this level of life. I especially want to thank my eldest brother who always stood by me and encouraged me,” he said.

    Recently a television programme called Rataa (patterns) about my creations was telecast on Rupavahini. I was in the group which designed the backdrop for the popular Hindi movie Bombay Velvet which was filmed at Ranminithenna, Hambantota, he said.

    “At the moment, I teach art to students at Ma/Ha/Mahanagapura Maha Vidyalaya. I wish to continue my higher education and obtain postgraduate qualifications in the same field from a foreign university if possible,” he said.

    “Assemble Arts can heal people and make peace. I want to be an artist who can help people to heal themselves. I want to heal this burning world. That is my dream,” Lasitha said.

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