Asher Woodman-Worrell: Meet an amazing Sri Lankan deaf artist

Posted on October 8, 2013

If someone asked me what makes The Limping Chicken so successful, my answer would be that I believe it is instrumental in bringing deaf related issues and stories to light, increasing awareness and knowledge.

An excellent example would be Ady Swinbourne’s recent article on going private with his hearing aids. That article inspired some people to go private and improve their quality of life. Yesterday, I saw someone posted a status on Facebook about how delighted he was to finally hear music.

However, on my travels this summer, I was reminded that not everyone in the worldwide deaf community is fortunate enough to have access and to share in the wealth of information that The Limping Chicken has on offer.

This realisation dawned on me during my meeting with a deaf artist in Sri Lanka; and after the meeting, I felt compelled to bring his story to light. Let me introduce you to the deaf artist in the question: Manjula.

Hi Manjula, tell us about yourself

My name is Manjula Kithsiri Lokuararchi, I’m 50 years old and I live in Negombo,Sri Lanka. I am currently an artist but I used to work in advertising industry for ten years doing odd jobs. I also used to design flyers and make clothes for my mother’s business.

How did you get interested in painting?

Funnily enough, I was never taught art at my school (he was educated at a deaf school; Sri Lanka has 26 deaf schools! With that figure they put UK’s limited deaf schools to shame!) One day, I saw my classmate drawing the comic book sailor Popeye. I was really intrigued so I decide to attempt to do the same when I got home.

DSCF9809After several attempts, I finally perfected my drawing and I brought it back to show my classmate my drawing which then sparked a friendly rivalry about who was the better artist. After that I was hooked. I entered a worldwide deaf children’s art competition where I was commended in my age group.

That added fuel to my passion for art which continued when I left school and worked in advertising as I was able to see many concept arts used in advertising.

You have your own gallery, what inspired you to start it up?

It all started when I visited Australia as a part of Sri Lanka cricket entourage’s tour. During sightseeing, I saw an art gallery for first time in my life. It gave me a lot of ideas and I created some frames which I then brought to the gallery. They liked it so much that they bought it and requested for more frames to be made. The next time I returned with new frames, all of my original frames were already sold out! I also set up a stall near the Sydney Opera House to sell my paintings which was a success and my work was in demand.

I then came back from Australia buzzing with fresh ideas for my art. Luckily for me, a friend approached me to help out with restoring an abandoned property that he had obtained in Colombo (The capital of Sri Lanka) however he was unsure what to do with the property at that time so I asked him whether I could rent a part of the property from him to start my own art gallery. He agreed!

It was not long until another friend of mine from Negombo informed me of a great property available for rent so I made the move and here I am!

What is your painting style?

My preferred style is oil painting, however, it takes ages to dry so I often use acrylic paints because they dry faster so I can produce more paintings for my gallery as the result. I love painting distorted portraits in Picasso style.

The majority of my works are Sri Lanka icons such as elephants, stilt fishermen (Google it, it is a very unique fishing style!) and Sri Lanka landmarks such as Sigiriya Rock or Dondra Lighthouse. This is because they are more popular with tourists who want to bring home a reminder of their time in Sri Lanka.

DSCF9779However, I am open to all type of paintings and I can cater for bespoke orders by customers. I have painted several portraits for customers and I have also worked as a one-on-one art tutor in the past and I regularly browse YouTube for art videos to seek more inspiration. I am open to all styles and ideas!

What are your future plans?

Since I am currently living in the shop, I would like to eventually buy my own home or to live abroad in USA or England or Australia and open an art gallery over there as I believe there is more interest in art in these countries which mean I will be able to sell more paintings. I also want to send my son to a private school to receive an excellent education.

I am writing this article primarily because I can send few copies to Manjula so he can put one up on his shop for visitors to read and to distribute few more copies to Sri Lanka Deaf and Art community. This is even more important when he informed me that Sri Lanka deaf community do have an organisation body but they do not have any media circulation such as social networks or newsletters. This hammers the point that I made at the start of this article home that we have a luxury of Limping Chicken and regular updates from major deaf organisations while deaf citizens of third world countries do not.

But it would be a bonus if anyone is interested to purchase his work. Manjula does not have his own website but he has added pictures of his work on Facebook. Email him for more information about his work

Asher is now a university graduate, yet he is strangely going back to university to do another degree. He volunteers for BDA’s Youth board and run Deaf Runners- a facebook group for deaf runners in his spare time – however, sadly, he hasn’t got over his obsession with Leicester City and PlayStation 3 – to his girlfriend’s everlasting suffering. Follow him on Twitter: @Asher_The_Blur

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