Turtles Will Never Fly

Text and Pictures by Saranapla Pamunuwa

Close your eyes and try to set about your daily chores. Try to walk with one leg or perform, with one hand, a task that requires both. Just sit in a wheel chair and try to play a game of tennis. Then what about communicating without speaking or with ear plugs on? In a few minutes, if not seconds, you will be sick of it, won’t you?

Imagine the plight of those who have to do so everyday in life. There are tens of thousands of them who have the courage to rise from the pitiable depths that the cruelty of nature has dragged them into.

Every minute in their lives is fraught with their struggle to be able to live as others. They don’t believe in tears. And they don’t ask for sympathy.

All what a society should do is to evince empathy with these heroic beings who are battling, day in and day out, their fate.

A civilised society worth its name will sure couple this empathy with assistance so that these fate-battling warriors will be encouraged in their pursuit.

Sri Lanka, which boasts of a civilisation which other nations may envy, has to hang her head in shame; she has failed so pathetically to champion the cause of these heroes and heroines, most of whom are living a secluded life unable to join the mainstream of society.

As for the much-flaunted social responsibility of the institutions that are public or private, count the number of them that have even a wheel chair access. Near zero, isn’t it?

While we have collectively failed as a society in looking after these men and women, a few organisations have come to their help.

One of them is the ‘Sunera Foundation,’

Sunera, headed by its indomitable Chairperson, Sunethra Bandaranaike, has come to the fore to kindle hope and joy in their lives.

Sunera provides, inter alia, opportunity for the differently abled sections of society in all parts of the country to hone their skills in the performing arts.

Sunethra says Sunera has brought together such talented youth belonging to all ethnic and religious groups. And through workshops conducted in several parts of the country, they are given an opportunity to demonstrate their skills.

She says she is really impressed by their talent and has first hand experience of their problems which, she says, differ to some extent from, place to place. Not only these persons but their families as well, she says, have to shoulder the burden of social disadvantages besetting them. It is the responsibility of society to bring them relief, she adds.

From its crusade for liberating the differently abled from the shackle of disadvantage, has sprung the play, ‘Piyanoyathi Ibbo’ (Turtles will never fly).

Sunera has conducted workshops on performing arts, in Jaffna, Tangalle, Hatton, Badulla and Batticaloa. Some of those who took part in them as well as some of the inmates of the Ranaviru Sevana, whose talent was identified through the Sunera workshops in Colombo have been selected for the play.

Turtles Will Never Fly, Sunethra says, is aimed at building harmony among diverse groups and they had selected these five areas to represent the community lives of villages of North, South, East, West and the Hills.

These workshops have been sponsored by the Government of the Netherlands as a gesture of its support for bringing about interaction among diverse cultures and ethnic groups in Sri Lanka.

The Butterfly Theatre Company, which has come into being through the many workshops that Sunera has conducted with the help of the British government, has already performed throughout Sri Lanka and abroad since 1998, the plays being: Butterflies Will Always Fly (1998 and 1999) in Sri Lanka, Flowers Will Always Bloom (2000 to 2003) in Sri Lanka and London, Brisbane and New Delhi, Swinging Times - A Fairy Tale for Adults (2001 and 2003) in Sri Lanka and Journey into the Subconscious (2002) in Sri Lanka.

Turtles Will Never Fly is directed and choreographed by Sunera Foundation’s Creative Director Wolfgang Stange and Rohana Deva, assisted by Ramani Damayanthi.

Turtles Will Never Fly will be staged today and tomorrow at the Bishop’s College Auditorium.



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