A photographic tribute to Sri Lanka’s enchanting wilderness
The journey that we made to produce this book has been sustained by the combination of two simple interpretations of the word Sanctuary.
Firstly, Sanctuary, in its original meaning, is a sacred place. By using such places as a haven, and by extension, the term signifies any place of safety. When we speak of the Sanctity of something, it is to suggest holiness, and that which must be treated with a great deal of respect and devotion. Therefore, an animal or plant sanctuary, whether protected by law or otherwise, is a place where all living beings within, must be guaranteed the immunity to function as partners of a natural ecosystem.
These protected or respected enclaves will be the benchmarks against which we humans must interpret our interactions with the natural world. Eventually, these shelters will be the only means we will have recourse to, if we are to preserve what little remains of the natural world. They are our only hope of successfully challenging the rapid diminution of the heritage of future generations.
Whilst we, the human species, arrogantly decide for all the other life forms on our planet, as to which spaces are to be set aside and protected for conservation and preservation, we sadly ignore the other places which many species, in innocent ignorance of our superior plans, regard as safe retreats. Only too often and too late, do these species learn that our designs and their lifestyles aren’t compatible. Whilst there is something to be said about the protection of that which we are legally required to defend, our initiatives are still woefully inadequate.
There are these spaces, both large and small, independent and disconnected, which are coverts for many species of fauna and flora, but not protected. Make no mistake though, as these unregulated sanctuaries are as important as those which have official recognition. Over half of the images portrayed in this book were captured in such vulnerable areas.
A different concept of peace
Secondly, we both find our spiritual Sanctuaries in the wild places of Sri Lanka. Both of us, having been close friends for over thirty years through our involvement in tennis during the early years of our lives, reconnected eight years ago and discovered an even more absorbing commonality, in an arena far removed from the tennis court and in many aspects, far more demanding. While placing no less importance or value on the very different dimension of the Sanctity we find in our family lives, the jungles, forests and open spaces of Sri Lanka have offered us a different concept of peace, freedom
In those small moments when we are in the embrace of the physical and spiritual fabric of the wild, we become one with all the other species we share that bit of our earth with; we recognize the depth and complexity of the shelter and the protection it offers. Nothing can harm us, nothing can touch us. The only sounds you will hear are the twittering and buzzing of birds and insects, the occasional croak of a frog, the rustling of leaves, the creak of branch against branch and the muffled tinkle of naturally running water. Your senses are soothed by the comforting smell of damp earth and crumbling leaf matter. The murmur and bouquet of the wild have been our collective anodyne from other harsh realities. Whilst we find bliss in these brief passing moments, we are also humbly and constantly aware of the fact, that the preservation of these places of safety is the thin line between life and extinction, for all else we share this earth with.
The images of this book are the result of countless enchanting hours, quite often stolen from other commitments, spent during eight years of our lives in the true Sanctuaries of Sri Lanka, both the protected and the endangered. They also reveal the untold story of innumerable failed attempts, fruitless forays and anguished missed opportunities. But there wasn’t a single moment of regret. We have joyfully accepted failure, as, often, the journey itself was reward enough.
During our expeditions, as a result of commitment and good fortune, in addition to many local rarities, we have been able to capture the images of over a dozen very rare migrants and vagrants who made the fortuitous decision to make Sri Lanka their winter retreat during the migratory seasons during the last decade. The argument for the need for conservation of our sanctuaries is made here once again, to ensure that our friends have a safe haven in which to spend their cold winters. Some of these guests to Sri Lanka have either only been recorded a handful of times previously, or, for the first time. In this book, we have endeavored to weave a tapestry of these images, in a manner that best illustrates the beauty of our visiting friends.
Through these images, we hope to invoke in the reader and the viewer, the same emotions we experienced in our journey, in the belief that as more and more of us come alive to the often-hidden beauty of this country and what it has to offer, that the platform will broaden, for the advocacy and activism for the preservation and conservation of all its Sanctuaries and all life forms that they harbour.
Two young men
Isuru Gunasekera and Somanath Fernando, two young men engaged in different fields, but united in a common passion for wild-life photography, have collated the combined efforts of almost a decade in pursuit of their interest, in an elegant, exquisitely choreographed, coffee table offering.
The highly professionally crafted images cover a wide variety of bird-life, with some very rare migrants being featured along with indigenous species. Also featured are arresting photographs of other animal species as well. What is unusual about this book, and that which should distinguish it from many others of the genre, is that the story behind many of the images is narrated separately by the photographer, either Isuru or Somanath. Clearly, their separate and sometimes combined journeys, have been as absorbing and as satisfying, as the destinations.
Central to the theme of pictorial depiction is a plea from the two men, for the need for the preservation of habitats, presently unregulated and unprotected, as some of the best images have been captured in commonplace locations, unconnected with the legally protected animal habitats; hence the title, “ Sanctuary”.
The introduction to the book, reproduced here , explains Isuru and Somanath’s philosophy and motivation.
The book will be on display and available for sale, on the 25th and 26th , from
9 am to 8 pm, at the Harold Peiris Gallery, Lionel Wendt Theatre, Colombo 7.