By Radhieka Peeris
It is not that often that people in Colombo get to witness art exhibitions by muslim women from Jaffna.
Against all odds, Zhamshiya Kaleel (54), from Jaffna made it work for her, when she held her maiden solo exhibition of art work at the National Art Gallery recently.
“Holding my own art exhibition was my dream” Kaleel says beaming at her achievement. Her earliest known influence was derived from her father who was himself an artist in Jaffna. Her inclination towards art started early, at the age of six, with her father as her first guru, she used to paint with water colours on paper.
In 1965 she started using water colours, and in 2006 she graduated to oil on canvas. The paintings on display were mainly done with the use of palette knives of different sizes in impasto style. Impasto is an art term used to describe thickly textured paint that is almost three-dimensional in appearance. Using an impasto technique often leaves visible brush strokes in the finished painting. Many times those brush strokes are actually more important than the subject matter itself.
Moving to Colombo as soon as she got married at the age of 23, Kaleel attempted to study art under a professional artist in 1983, but was turned down twice over due to the lack of space. Exasperated she resigned to simply visually enjoying and self learning through the art work of others mainly during her trips to Semage Jayasiri’s art gallery. By a stroke of luck one day she received information through a friend of certain the art classes held at the National Gallery which she joined immediately in 2009. This she attributes as being the main motivation for her to hold her own show. However, it was not an easy task to convince her family that an education in art is what she chooses to pursue in contrast to a more serious form of higher education.
It is quite evident that she likes greenery in her drawings full of landscapes. Kaleel explains that “I used to visit places for example like Kithulgala, where I would take photographs and then come back home and paint the scenery that was captured with the lens of the camera.”
Since her religious belief as a muslim does not permit her to depict figures, she is quite content painting renditions from nature.
The sheer courage of this woman from a conservative background should be lauded, as she had many thing going against her initial interest in art, but she somehow found a way to make it through, and that is what actually made this Jaffna born muslim woman to make it big in the capital city of Colombo. A steadfast follower of her dreams, she made it a reality after forty eight years unaltered belief. courtesy: Ceylon Today