Gets ready for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival scheduled to be held next year
Bearded artist Anup Vega is a misunderstood man. The appearance of a mystic, the scraggy thin physique and the wondering eyes he possesses have all contributed towards making all of us pop the question ‘who is this man?’.
This is what Vega had to endure when in England recently. Vega entertained the audience there by performing certain rituals accustomed to the farmer folks in Sri Lanka.
He had encountered certain issues at the airport, in England, when the authorities had queried why he had to carry a sackful of items which contained things like lamps, grains of rice and coconut flowers into the country?
Vega’s strength lies in his presentation, his talk and whatever he celebrates. Within a few minutes he was able to convince officials at the airport that what was in his sack was to be used for a presentation in visual art, the only presentation of this kind at the Edinburgh Music and Art Festival which was held at Sciennes Gallery Summerhall in England from August 2 to September 24. For the record among the artists invited for the festival there were five who were from Sri Lanka origin.
The theme at the festival was ‘Return in search of stillness’. And the direction given to all artists was to make a return after World War 2. “But return to what?”, responded Vega during an interview with the Daily Mirror.
“People don’t have a clear idea as to what to return to. People now have money, possessions and power. But I feel that returning to the elementary level of life is the most precious,” said Vega as he happily tucked into the rice, dhal and coconut sambol on his plate which comprised his breakfast that day.
This writer met Vega for breakfast at a wayside restaurant on the road to the Sri Jayawardenepura Hospital. Vega’s presentation, connected to the farmer folks, had appealed to the London audience. It was a vibrant show and the whole stage was made fragrant with some of the items he had burned.
“I wanted to demonstrate some of the rituals practiced by the farming community because we have such a huge connection with the land. This connection with the land has been severed. Much of the rice Sri Lankans consume is imported now. There was a time when paddy was cultivated here and we used the first harvest for religious purposes. We miss this connection and now suffer,” explained Vega.
“There are artists both in the East and the West. The Western artist wishes to move to Asia. On the surface there is contrast, but underneath the texture is the same. I’ve noticed the confusion
Vega said that art in the West was associated with comedy and entertainment. This is why he choose to include visual art in his presentations. Most Asians prefer to settle in the West and have the notion that the opportunities and living standards are better there. “There are artists both in the East and the West. The Western artist wishes to move to Asia. On the surface there is contrast, but underneath the texture is the same. I’ve noticed the confusion. There is so much struggle due to desire,” opined Vega.
These were his thoughts on the West with this trip marking his first appearance in this part of the world. Asked whether he could bloom to his full potential as an artist, here in this island, Vega said, “Sri Lanka is not my choice. I was born here. I have lived with ups and downs,” he said.
Vega said that he was elated that his London trip was sponsored by the British Council and Colombo Art Biennale. He was chosen as Sri Lanka’s first and sole representative at the Edinburgh Music and Art Festival by gallery owner Anoushka Hempel. Vega said that he was overjoyed due to the fact that a sponsors was interested in an artist at a time when corporates are running behind celebrity artistes and top sportsmen to obtain millage for their products. “I must thank Anoushka Hempel for playing a huge role in choosing me for the festival,” said Vega who is expected to make his second visit to London for the Edinburg Fringe Festival, next year.
The day this writer met Vega happened to be his 50th birthday. This is an artist who kicked against receiving a classroom education and preferred nature to give him all his life’s lessons. During his 50 years on planet earth he has chosen to be self-taught. “The human body has all what you need. Everybody is born with fully equipped senses,” he said. Vega said that when he reflected on the years that have rolled by his description of the experience he has had shares similarities with the last words spoken by spiritual leader Osho (Baghavan Shree Rajneesh). “Life is a dream,” said Vega.
It’s easy to interview this high-profile artist because he seems to have dropped his ego. Another reason why anybody would want to spend some time with him is that there is a sense of celebration in whatever he does. “The essence of my work is joy and celebration. I’m happy for no reason,” said the bearded artist who lives in Pannala and drives around in a rickety old Volkswagen van.
His beard is lovely. There is sunshine in Vega’s eyes. If one were to describe Vega, he prefers to wear a light cloth as his personality and not a heavy metal vest which most successful people today like to display as their personality when they present themselves in public. “I like to be introduced as a natural human being,” said Vega.
While interviewing him this writer couldn’t refrain from having a peep into those eyes of his which looked like gazing into the horizon. He was physically present here, but those eyes suggested that he was detached from this noisy world we all live in.
“People suspect me to be a criminal when I go to a place and sit there for hours, largely because of my dress and beard. They don’t believe me when I say that I’m just sitting there waiting to catch a glimpse of first rays of the morning sun,” said Vega.