France Sri Lanka Cultural Exchanges - Suriyakantha

  The bilingual site devoted to the cultural life in Sri Lanka and in France                                                        
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Le site bilingue consacré à la vie culturelle au Sri Lanka et en France

H O M E   /   I N  B R I E F



Sri Lanka / France














Fascination of the body

Paul Cézanne

In the Light of Gauguin


Jean de La Fontaine

Malraux / Segalen


Pigeon houses in Quercy






Death Penalty

Mental Health



Miniatures of Kangra, India


  • NOVEMBER 2005 : World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)

    Tunis (16-18 November 2005)
    "Who should run the internet?"

    Until recently it was an academic question. After all, the United States - thanks to public money and (later on) private entrepreneurialism - had been the midwife of the net in the 1960s and had assumed de facto maternal control. But this divine right is now being challenged. Last week the EU proposed new global institutions, possibly under UN control, to replace existing organisations such as Icann which controls the issuing of domain names such as ".com" and the "root servers" critical for the working of the net's infrastructure. This is to be decided at next month's UN world summit in Tunis on the information society, where the US is likely to be in a tiny minority against the rest of he world."
    The Guardian, 11 October 2005  

  • OCTOBER 2005 - UNESCO : General Conference adopts Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions

    20-10-2005 7:00 pm The General Conference of UNESCO, meeting in Paris from October 3 to October 21, today approved (148 votes for, two against, four abstentions) the Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions, an international normative instrument that will enter into force three months after its ratification by 30 States


    The suicide terrorists

    Sri Lanka
    August 2004

      Bawa - Genius of the Place.
      An Architect of Sri Lanka
      An exhibition at the German Architecture Museum of Frankfurt till October 17, 2004

      The Sri Lankan Architect Geoffrey Bawa is now regarded as having been one of the most important and influential Asian architects of the twentieth century. Bawa’s significance was confirmed in 2001 when he received the special chairman’s award in the eighth cycle of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, becoming only the third architect and the first non-Moslem to be so honoured since the award’s inception.

    Bawa came late to architecture, only qualifying at the age of thirty-eight in 1957, but he soon established himself as Sri Lanka’s most prolific and inventive architect, establishing a whole canon of prototypes for buildings in a tropical Asian context. Although best known for his private houses and hotels, his portfolio also included schools and universities, factories and offices, public buildings and social buildings as well as the new Sri Lanka Parliament. Bawa’s work is characterised by sensitivity to site and context. He produced ‘sustainable architecture’ long before the term was coined, and had developed his own ‘regional modernist’ position. His designs break down the barriers between inside and outside, between building and landscape. One of Bawa’s most impressive achievements has been the garden at Lunuganga which he has slowly fashioned for himself from an abandoned rubber estate over a period of fifty years. The result is a series of outdoor rooms conceived with an exquisite sense of theatre as a civilised wilderness set within the greater garden of Sri Lanka. Geoffrey Bawa died in 2003. The German Architecture Museum proposes to celebrate for the first time his whole work in a major exhibition.

    Sri Lanka
    December 2001

    Geoffrey Bawa presented the
    World's Top Architectural honour

    Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa has become only the third recipient in the world to date to be honoured with the celebrated Chairman's Award for lifetime achievement at The Triennial Aga Khan Awards for Architecture.

    The Chairman's Award, one of the highlights of the world's largest architectural award program, represents the pinnacle of global appreciation of the four decades long career of the man who has come to be regarded as the sage of Sri Lankan architecture.

    The Chairman's Award was established to honour achievements that fall outside the scope of the mandate of the international master jury that selects the nine recipients of the Aga Khan award every three years. It has been awarded on only two previous occasions, in 1980 to the Egyptian architect and urban planer Hassan Fathy and in 1986 to Rifat Chadirji, Iraqi architect and educator.

    Further international attention will follow through a feature essay on the work of Geoffrey Bawa by David Robson, with photographic portfolios of the master's work by Helene Binet and Christian Richters in a monograph published by Thames and Hudson in November on the 2001 Aga Khan Awards.

    Born in 1919, Geoffrey Bawa began his career as an architect at the relatively late age of 37. His best known works include Lunuganga, the garden in Bentota that he has nurtured over the past 40 years, the House of Parliament in Kotte, the Kandalama Hotel, the Blue Water Hotel in Wadduwa, the Ruhunu University Campus, the "Yahapath Endera" Farm School at Hanwella, and the Madurai Club in India.

      Published by Thames & Hudson...

      Geoffrey Bawa, Architect in Sri Lanka, By Brian Brace Taylor, Geoffrey Bawa and Barbara Sansoni, Published by Thames & Hudson.

      This should interest particularly those who build in the tropics. Geoffrey Bawa develops his excellent contemporary buildings and gardens from the incredible ressources of vernacular into classical types: they are valid and consistent operational types for the tropics beyond regional particularities and local building cultures!


    December 2001

    World's first Tea Museum opens in hill capital

    World's first Tea Museum is opened recently at Hanthana Estate Kandy. The museum is hosted by a 4 storied building consists of an auditorium, library, office and other essential places. This 75 years old building had been used as a tea factory earlier.

    Old equipment used for Tea processing during the time the industry was originated in Sri Lanka, a tea sales centre. The first tea roller things used by the late James Taylor who pioneered the tea plantation here in 1867 are found in the Museum.

    The opening of the museum is a very important and commendable service to Sri Lanka's Tea Industry. It was equally important for the people to see for themselves as how the Tea Industry was originated in this country and how it was expanded and developed to the existing situation today when it had become a vital component in the country's economy. It had become a major foreign exchange earner to the country.

    The Museum will be opened to the public from January 1st, 2002. The entrance fee will be Rs. 20 for adults and Rs. 5 for children.

    March 2002

    UNESCO award for Tea Factory Hotel


      The Tea Factory Hotel at Kandapola (Nuwara Eliya) has won the

      'UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Merit Award 2001'

      for the impressive conversion of a dilapidated Tea Factory into luxury hotel complex thereby demonstrating a challenging adaptive re-use project carried out with commendable skill and vision.


    November 2001

    "The most beautiful swimming pool in France" becomes the Roubaix Museum of Art and Industry.

      La Piscine - Museum of Art and Industry,
      23, rue de l'Espérance, 59100 Roubaix.
      tel 00 33 3 20 69 23 60

      The former municipal swimming pool in Roubaix, which was constructed by the architect Albert Baert beween 1925 and 1932, was closed for the last 15 years. Today, after being renovated by the architect Jean-Paul Philippon, it hosts the Museum of Art and Industry of Roubaix.
      "Ville d'art et d'histoire" - City of Art and History, Roubaix asserts its concern on revaluation and preservation of its industrial patrimony.


    Architect Tadao Ando selected for
    the construction of the Pinault Foundation

    October 2001

    Tadao Ando. - the most famous Japanese architect of his generation - has been selected to build the Art Contemporary Foundation on "l'ile Seguin" - central part of the previous site of the Renault factories - in Boulogne-Billancourt (Paris).
    This choice opens the way towards the large reorganization of the bank of the Seine.

    Tadao Ando, the architect of the silence...

    "I do not believe that architecture should speak too much."

    "It should remain silent and let nature, in the guise of sunlight and wind, speak."


    The residential and institutional projects of Ando Tadao (b. 1941) are marked by stark, natural materials and a careful integration of building with nature. Ando is known for an austere, almost monastic type of architecture, usually built of beautifully finished raw concrete, often in simple geometric shapes, and without any ornament or historic detail.

    On an island in Japan, Ando created in 1993, a Buddhist Lotus Temple around an elliptical pool of water. One of the architect's major works was the Suntory Museum in Osaka, which opened during 1995 and contained spaces for housing contemporary art and for staging performing arts.

    In 1995, he was the winner of the most prestigious international award in the field, the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

    In 1997, Ando was also named winner of a competition for the design of the New Museum of Modern art in Fort Worth, Texas (above), his first U.S. commission.

    Sri Lanka
    December 2001

    Sanskrit copy of legendary Buddhist Sutra
    found in Tibet

    An ancient copy of a legendary Buddhist Sutra, written in Sanskrit, has been discovered in the city of Lhasa in Tibet, researchers at Taisho University declares.

    It is the first time in modern history that an original Sanskrit text of the scripture, called ''Yuima-kyo'' in Japanese and the ''Vimalakirti'' Sutra in Sanskrit, has been discovered, the researchers said. Buddhists have so far used texts translated into old Chinese and Tibetan.

    The researchers said the scripture, which dates to the eighth century, was found in July 1999 at the Potala Palace in Lhasa.

    The Potala Palace was established by the Dalai Lama in the 17th century and was registered as a world cultural heritage site in 1994. It consists of more than 1,000 rooms and houses a number of precious Buddha statues, pictures and scriptures.

    The researchers said Buddhist scholars around the world had long searched for the scripture and the finding had a significant impact on various fields.

    The finding is expected to help reveal more about the establishment of one of the two major divisions of Buddhism in India around the 1st and 2nd centuries and the spread of the belief to China and Japan.

    The Vimalakirti is one of the noted Buddhist Sutras. In Japan, Prince Regent Shotoku Taisi, who lived in late sixth to early seventh century, also wrote a book on the Vimalakirti in the Asuka Era.


    November 2001

    Asoka statues in Orissa corroborate
    Buddhism propagation theory

    Statues of the ancient emperor Asoka found this year in the eastern Indian state of Orissa corroborate the theory that he propagated Buddhism from the land he conquered, archaeologists claim.

    The state's culture department had in June-July discovered two statues of Asoka at the Langudi hill in the Jajpur district. However, the archaeological find has been made public only now.

    Emperor Asoka ruled over the Mauryan empire, based in the modern day state of Bihar, in the third century B.C. After he invaded Kalinga - which lay in present day Orissa - through a bloody campaign, he turned pacifist and took to Buddhism. He lived the rest of days as a virtual monk though he retained the throne.

    Two of his images have been discovered : the first one is in a sitting posture, the height and width of which are 33 cm and 18 cm respectively. The height and width of the second one are 46 cm and 36 cm respectively.

    In the (first) image, he wears kundala (ear-rings) but no mukuta (crown) and there is a tilak (vermilion mark) on his forehead. All these show him worshipping the stupa (Buddhist shrine).

    Orissa has a host of ancient Buddhist sites, dating up to the 16th century A.D. The Buddhist sites excavated in the state so far are in Ratnagiri, Udaygiri, Lalitgiri, Kuruma, Brahmavana, Langudi and Ganiapali. These sites have yielded large stupas, viharas (monasteries), sculptures and other objects of archaeological importance.

    Asoka's conquest of Kalinga in 261 B.C. became the turning point in Buddhist history, historians concur. Ancient Kalinga formed an important geographical niche between the north and south. With its rich and prosperous ports, it maintained close trade and cultural ties with Burma (Myanmar), Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and other Indian Ocean islands. The emperor is known to have sent his children to propagate Buddhism in Ceylon.

    Historians believed that Asoka propagated Buddhism in Kalinga as well. But only with the discovery of the emperor's images in Langudi hill has that theory been corroborated. Historians can now argue with some confidence that Asoka began propagating Buddhism from Kalinga.

    Reference : Indo-Asian News Service


    France remains the first touristic destination
    in the world

    According to an estimation provided by the Secrétariat d'Etat au Tourisme, 75 million foreign tourists visited France in the year 2000, that is an increase of 2.7% in one year. This increase is a regular process from 1995.

    The number of visitors was 73 million in 1999, 70 million in 1998, and about 60 million in 1995.

    In 2000, France is largely ahead of USA (52,7 million foreign visitors (according to the World Tourism Organization), and Spain (48,5 million).

    2001 - France still first.
    In 2001, a total of 73 million of visitors should set foot on France. The French Riviera and Paris remain the favorite places of foreigners. Like this, France consolidates its first rank as a tourist destination in the world.

      Sri Lanka

    Sunday Observer, Colombo
    25th February 2001

    Unfair treatment of tourists at cultural sites

    I have had the pleasure of holidaying recently in Sri Lanka with my family. The spectacular scenery up-country, large tea-estates, unique hospitality and the magnificent beaches of Sri Lanka contributed greatly to a very successful and restful holiday.

    However, there is one area which cast Sri Lanka in a very poor light and one which, I believe,will cost SL a loss of revenue. The area I refer to is the discrepancy in charges between nationals and tourists for access to cultural sites. For example, to visit Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa, a national pays Rs. 10, a tourist pays Rs. 1230 (USD 15) a massive discrepancy of 123 times what a national pays. I can understand the need to ensure that tourists pay extra for visiting various sites (although I do not accept it).

    For example, at the Elephant Sanctuary at Pinnawella, access to the site for a national is Rs. 20. A tourist pays Rs. 150. The discrepancy, 7 1/2 times what a national pays, can be accepted, and a reasonable charge for tourists to visit Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa can also be accepted. What is unacceptable, however, is the massive cost differential between national and tourists to visit Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa.

    I believe this huge cost differential is inimical to the interest of tourism in Sri Lanka in the long term and will cause a loss of revenue as tourists baulk at paying these prices for the pleasure of visiting these sites. Our party, 14 people in all a mixture of nationals and tourists, visited two sites:

    Sigiriya - Some, not all, of the party visited Sigiriya due to the high prices charged. There was a loss of income as not all the tourists visited this site.

    Polonnaruwa - None of the party visited the site as a protest at the high prices charged for tourists. Again there was a loss of income to the Government.

    I believe that the Ceylon Tourist Board should not view tourists as a cash cow to be exploited unmercifully and relentlessly. This is the short-term view and one that will not generate repeat visits by the exploited tourists. Please remember that not every tourist is a millionaire.

    I should think that the Board and the Government should take the long term view and charge reasonably to ensure tourism will continue to earn the export dollars desperately needed by the Government. It is my hope that the long-term view will be the preferred option taken by the Board and the Government.

    Ashley Symons - NSW, Australia

    Daily News, Colombo
    Thursday, 7 June 2001

    A wonderful time, but...

    I write this as an independent traveller in Sri Lanka on a longish vacation, escaping the cold of the UK!

    But the time I finally depart these shores, I will have been here almost four months and throughout this time I have had a brilliant trip travelling around the island and watching the cricket. Above all else the genuine friendliness of the Sri Lankan people will stay with me a long, long time. (...) A couple of issues though have bothered me a lot, and it involves more the principle than anything else.

    Its the blatant overcharging at official sites (the ancient cities, Horton Plains) of foreigners in comparison to what residents pay. Does the Sri Lanka tourism board see all tourists who visit here as big spending package tour types, with endless amounts of hard currency? I think they do. Why should foreigners pay more? Is it because we are white and therefore must be rich? Its this perception which hurts.

    At the Galle Test match a fine example took place. I went to the ground to check ticket availability and there in the office was informed by the officials that only 650 Rs / tickets were left, and that I would have to buy all five days in advance. When I enquired about other parts of the ground which were 'stand-less' I was abruptly told "Members Only". I wasn't going to pay that kind of money. So I went off annoyed, and to investigate further. On the first day of the match, tickets at all prices were available, and the so called "Members only" area was 20 Rs / a ticket!

    This kind of attitude, or blatant lying if you like will do your great country's reputation more harm than good. By the way we had a great 4 1/2 days despite getting annihilated by the likes of Jayasuriya and Co.!

    My other point concerns internet costs. John Simes' letter printed Saturday, May 19th said it all very well. Young Sri Lankans should be encouraged to use this facility, but at the prices I have found around the island (from 2 RP/ to 14RP/ per min!), kids other than those living in Cinnamon Gardens have not a chance.

    Leicestershire, UK


    We take the opportunity with these letters to open the debate concerning this clearly highlighted disparity betweem the two categories of the visitors of cultural sites : nationals and foreigners.
    This last category includes not only tourists but also residents who sometimes live and work in Sri Lanka for many years.
    Having many tomes being confronted to this situation, we completely agree with the opinions expressed in these letters. What is your opinion? Please, contact us.



  • French to use Sri Lanka as hub for trade with Asian markets. - November 2000 (SL)

  • A five year plan to develop arts and culture in French schools. -December 2000 (FR)

  • French language exam results, a disaster. - December 2000 (SL)

  • A `Micro Film Unit' for the Library of Colombo National Museum. -January 2001 (SL)

  • The reopening of two Museums in Paris. - January 2001 (FR)

  • Maurice Estève (School of Paris ) dies at the age of 97. - June 2001(FR)