Reflections on a cultural marvel that changed our destiny
Prathibha – The Iconic Cultural Sizzler was born 25 years ago to fulfill our commitment to the expatriate Sri Lankans who were keen to share the social and cultural patterns of a nation that claims a heritage that dates back more than 2550 years. Unlike any other cultural show held in Brisbane, Prathibha is notably unique in its origin and ostensibly exclusive for the purpose for which it was invented.
The pioneers who laid the foundation to establish the SLBM in early nineteen nineties were also looking for opportunities to raise funds, and take advantage of such occasions to have fun and entertainment while sharing their vibrant culture with the wider community. Indeed, the exhilaration and amusement generated by these cultural events did momentarily relieve the pressure under which the pioneers had to work in their quest for setting up a Theravada Buddhist Temple.
Prathibha emerged as a popular variety show embracing an ancient culture rich in social values. The inaugural show was staged on the 23rd September 1990 at the Migrant Resource Centre, West End Brisbane. An exclusive feature of this inaugural production was the amateur cast, comprising husbands and wives, sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters who represented an enthusiastic bunch of expatriate Sri Lankans eager to share their cultural legacy.
A spin-off from the 1990 Prathibha was the majestic Sri Lankan Pageant* (Sri Lanka Puranaya) staged on the 16th of February, 1991 at the Yeronga State High School Auditorium – just five months after the 1990 debut. The most striking aspect of this creation was that it basically adopted ancient literary style of “Nadagam” and modified it to suit the stage play. The cast of more than 60 amateur artistes turned the pages of our
history in a splendid manner dressed in their magnificent costumes and presented a glimpse of royalty in the ancient kingdoms. The Pageant unraveled the Sri Lankan History from the time of King Rawana and the arrival of Prince Vijaya to the end of a Dynasty portrayed in King Sri Wickremarajasinghe’s last farewell – “Ithin Ayubowan…..” It also brought to the stage a glimpse of colonial rule under the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British and its impact on our cultural and social milieu.
In 2013, the SLAC revolutionized the presentation of Prathibha by introducing a combination or hybrid (referred to as Sankalana) of indigenous Sri Lankan regional classical dance styles as well as exotic dance aesthetics of countries like Spain, Africa, India and some Western nations. The audience who boarded the “Fusion Craft” (“Sankalana Yathra”) in 2013 experienced a fascinating voyage through a spectacular cultural panorama. Last year, the SLAC undertook an intricate and challenging task of creating on stage the most controversial chapter in our history – the arrival of Aryan Prince Vijaya and his seven hundred followers in Thambapanni and the subsequent encounter he had with Kuveni, the then Queen of Lankadeepa. Undoubtedly, the enactment of Vijaya-Kuveni on stage was an exigent undertaking considering the fact that neither the dialects of the natives (Nagas and Yakkhas) nor the verbal expressions used by the invaders (Vijaya and his followers) were known.
Finally, we express our sincere gratitude to all the volunteers – dedicated teachers, parents, children and coordinators of Yasodhara Dhamma and Sinhala School for their most devoted voluntary service, and the magnificent team effort in bringing 25th Prathibha to fruition. We do admire the courage and determination of the young performers, choreographers, presenters, musicians and all other volunteers who contributed to this cultural marvel. We are equally indebted to the Prathibha Committee for managing and coordinating an oversubscribed program.