Art Trail at The Galle Literary Festival 2024

(From left to right) Azara Jaleel, Jagath Weerasinghe, Channa Daswatte & Chevaan Daniel at the Launch of ARTRA Magazine's 'Galle Fort in the Contemporary' E66, on 30 Leyn Baan Street, Galle Fort

Transformed for 4 festive-filled days, the Galle Fort flourished into a sprawling art gallery. The Art Trail, which thrived in the citadel of the Fort from 25 - 28 January, was an interactive visual arts component concurrent to the Galle Literary Festival’s Literary and Gourmet programmes. It featured a dynamic programme line-up of international and ARTRA’s Emerging Artists | Best of 2023, 2022 and 2020 exhibitions, Meet-the-Artist sessions, open houses to heritage art spaces and exclusive workshops hosted by established contemporary artists. Providing a wide platform that fostered fresh, exciting and passionate dialogues about art, heritage, history and social criticism across a range of artistic mediums, the Art Trail engaged with a remarkably varied demographic of people that were drawn in by the Galle Literary Festival. This included people visiting from all across the world– enthusiastic tourists and returning expats, to Sri Lankans hailing across regions within the country. The Art Trail became a revolving door into the contemporary Sri Lankan art scene and the larger connecting tissue of the international contemporary art world to a staggering collection of travellers on their individual flight paths and journeys.


Scatterings of portrait stencils, paint brushes, watercolour and pencils upon a crimson-laid table set the scene for the inaugural session of this year’s Art Trail. Opening in a shaded space nestled within the belly of The Fort Printers in Galle Fort on 25th January, Belgium-born and Sri Lanka-based contemporary artist Fabienne Francotte led her three-hour workshop titled “Do You Remember Me?” after her exhibition of the same name. Following in the vein of her exhibit’s underlying philosophy– visual art as a medium for emotional processing– eager participants were given first-hand guidance by Francotte as she led them through the nuances of her craft. Together, they were guided through portrait-sketching, painting and foremostly processing their own emotions, as they unearthed moving stories through the depicted faces. This was followed by a curated tour of Fabienne Francotte’s poignant exhibition “Do You Remember Me?” on the same day at The Fort Printers. This hour-long tour welcomed a warm and enthusiastic crowd, and led by the artist Francotte herself, they were privy to her many stories– both moving and humorous– that lived through the portraits she had rendered of people captured amidst turmoil, and in the turbulent aftermath of trauma. With her works as a medium, Francotte unapologetically portrayed an array of difficult human emotion, her calligraphy-style brushstrokes evoking an arresting blend of human vulnerability, grief and defiance in a compelling testament to visual art’s dynamic ability to encapsulate a depth of experience that words cannot. 

Artworks of K. Mathiskumar on display at The Fort Printers, Galle Fort

Closing off the first day of the Art Trail, ARTRA Collection artists held a Meet-The-Artist session amidst the splendour of Thambili House at the Galle Fort. ARTRA’s Best Emerging Artists of 2023, 2022 and 2020 Kopalapillai Mathiskumar, Pulasthi Handunge, Mohammed Hathi, Malki Jayakody and Mahela ‘Marco’ Pansilu were spotlighted, and had the opportunity to engage with the crowd of art enthusiasts in attendance. Staging intimate conversations with the engaged crowd, each artist spoke about their respective exhibits that were to be on display for the four-day festival period– going into detail about their variegated backgrounds, inspirations, craftsmanships and philosophies around their collections of works. Following the larger crowd address, people mingled with the individual artists and fostered exciting dialogues around local contemporary art and the subsequent art culture existent and burgeoning within Sri Lanka. 

ARTRA Collection is a series of works acquired by ARTRA of Sri Lankan contemporary artists namely emerging and those identified, recognized and promoted by ARTRA since its inception in 2012; who are novel in thought, critical in nature and unique in presentation. Whilst showcasing Sri Lankan Contemporary Art in public spaces in a curated format, the ARTRA Collection aims to facilitate the growth of the Sri Lankan art ecosystem and that of Art Tourism.

Fabienne Francotte at The Fort Printers, Galle Fort 


Reminiscent of a living memory, art has the compelling ability to make permanent what is temporary. Day 2 of Art Trail brought to light the documentary power held within art, universal across its mediums, and reflective in not only its ability to document the world it was fabricated from, but also the artist that created it. On the 26th of January, The Galle Fort Hotel was host to a stimulating curated art tour of “Galle Fort Through the Eyes of Edward Atkinson Hornel”.. Led by the art curator of the exhibition, and historian Ismeth Raheem, together with Azara Jaleel Founder and Editor-In-Chief of ARTRA Magazine, people were led on a guided tour of the Scottish painter Edward Atkinson Hornel’s photography depicting 20th century Sri Lankan rural life, as it was starkly captured in all its elusive rarity, as sourced from the collection of Hornel’s photography in the custody of the National Trust for Scotland. In this tour, participants were privy to a Q & A style session with Ismeth Raheem, and were given the opportunity to mine exclusive information from Raheem’s sprawling expertise about the nuances of Sri Lankan rural life amidst colonial occupation, and the bustling pearl oyster trade and fishing that was integral to the livelihood and economy of the Galle Fort during that era. As such, the Edward Hornel notably displayed documentary photographs preserving the heritage and historicity of the Galle Fort within the 20th century– photographs that are prominently displayed across ARTRA’s latest Galle Fort in the Contemporary Edition 66, an edition that celebrates the rich culture, history and variegated significance of the citadel that is the Galle Fort. 

Ismeth Raheem at the Galle Fort Hotel

Graffiti artist Charles Uzzell Edwards guided participants on a curated art tour of his 100 Actresses exhibition at The Charleston later on the same day. As the name suggests, this exhibition was a broad-spanning collection of 100 works of art, a myriad of 100 famous actresses known for their beauty. Inspired by asking an Artificial Intelligence to make him a list of 100 actresses, which he could draw to add to his ‘Nightmares Series’ portraits, Uzzell embarked on this artistic behemoth with the following mantra in mind. “The AI suggested them, but did not create them. That was my job.” Uzzell highlighted his artistic and creative process in creating his behemoth collection, and regaled a series of entertaining tales to the crowd around his art, passion and journey as a creative, including anecdotes of his personal life as a father, the origins of his creative moniker ‘Pure Evil’, his ongoing creative endeavour as a gallerist in London, amongst his intriguing dialogues on his rabbit motifs, and visual themes constant across his collection.

Charles Uzzell Edwards at The Charleston

Azara Jaleel at The Charleston


Ushered in by the resounding cry for change, the rising action of the Art Trail commenced on Day 3. On 27 January, in the presence of the paintings by artist John Vincent from his exhibition “The Last Elephant” inspired by author Juliet Coombe’s latest Children’s book “The Astrologer’s Daughter” which reflected the plight of the elephants in Sri Lanka and the world as their species deteriorate into some of the most endangered animals on the planet. The audiences of the Art Trail gathered at Galle Fort Hotel had the opportunity to meet both the artist and author during this session to converse on their clever use of their respective mediums to creatively address an urgent and passionate social cause, exploring both motif-work across visual and written mediums as well as diving into the heart-wrenching stories of local people and their relationships to wild elephants– both warm and deeply tragic– as Vincent and Coombe educated the crowd of the senseless cruelty, malnourishment and destruction faced by Sri Lankan elephants in their natural habitats in the present day. 

John Vincent outside The Galle Fort Hotel

Juliet Coombe at The Galle Fort Hotel

Following this, the Galle Fort Hotel was host to the curated art tour of Mahela ‘Marco’ Manamperi’s “Pixel? Visual? SOMETHING Symphony” exhibition, and Resilience and Resistance by Mohammed Hathi. Guests of the tours were led through Manampei’s exhibition of digital art first, delving through the perspective and running commentary of the artist into the multiplicity and complexity of human experience conveyed through his displayed works, touching on his beginnings as an Aragalaya artist, as he grew prominent amidst the mass protests that erupted across the nation against the Sri Lankan government in 2022. As such, through his art he portrayed strong stances against systemic and political corruption and spoke of translating the turbulence of a society caught in the crosscurrents of reform. In a similar vein, Hathi’s curated tour of his exhibition brought into the forefront his philosophies regarding highlighting the systemic oppression faced by women that has become part of the normative reality, not only within Sri Lankan communities, but also across communities worldwide. Through his curated tour, Hathi spoke through the lens of a witness of misogyny, giving the audience an in depth look into some of the foundational socially critical underpinnings of his works, such as the imbedded marginalization women face from not only their social peers in domestic spaces, but also the institutionalized dimension to that discrimination that translates to authoritative pillars in our society, from the justice system to political landscapes. 

At 2pm, Charles Uzzell Edwards was hosted by Landesi in his Meet-the-Artist session, where participants had the opportunity to have an intimate sit-down with the London-based graffiti artist and founder of the “Pure Evil Gallery”. In this session, surrounded by the grandeur of Landesi’s plush luxury, Uzzell Edwards became the orchestrator of an organic and lively discussion with the participants– delving into an array of topics such as his beginnings as an artist and his discovery of his love for graffiti, his travels around the world in his pursuit and sharing of his craft, to entertaining stories of the entwining of his artistic craft and personal joy through his journey into fatherhood, his passion for promoting the arts to children and the individual stories behind some of works’ longest standing motifs such as the figure of the rabbit. 

Charles Uzzell Edwards at Landesi, Galle Fort

On the 27th of January, ARTRA proudly launched its 66th edition “Galle Fort in the Contemporary” at 30 Leyn Baan Street, through an exclusive art talk with an exciting panel of revered artists, art personalities and academics including Jagath Weerasinghe, Channa Daswatte and Chevaan Daniel, moderated by ARTRA’s Founder and Editor-In-Chief Azara Jaleel. Jagath Weerasinghe is a culturally significant Sri Lankan contemporary artist and archeologist who was a driving force in the development of Sri Lankan art since the early 1990s. He famously coined the phrase ‘90s Art Trend’, recognizing the need for a framework to describe the work of fellow Sri Lankan artists at the time. This concept has, in turn, acted as a catalyst for theoretical studies into the politically conscious contemporary art of 1990s Sri Lanka. Channa Daswatte is a renowned architect who had worked in the practice of the legendary C. Anjalendran, and has acted as a former Chair of the Galle Heritage Foundation, where he was involved in the management and maintenance of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Galle Fort. Currently, Daswatte is the Chairman of the Geoffrey Bawa and Lunuganga Trusts. Chevaan Daniel is the Group Director of The Capital Maharaja Organization, Sri Lanka’s largest TV & news media network. He is an internationally recognized speaker, having been the UN-OCHA Maître de Cérémonie for the World Humanitarian Summit - Global Consultation in Geneva, and having led the Sri Lankan delegation to the Bali Process’ Modern Day Slavery Summit in Perth, Australia. He is a published author with a speciality in Ancient Sri Lanka. The Launch of ARTRA’s Latest Edition ‘Galle Fort in the Contemporary’ featured a lively and intellectually stimulating art talk that explored the Galle Fort as a symbol of Sri Lanka’s complex past and its architectural legacy, and delved into the themes and significance of ARTRA’s latest edition through the lenses of expertise of the panel’s speakers– discussing the cultural significance of the Galle Fort and its enduring appeal through the lens of Sri Lankan and international art and architecture. 


Carrying the Art Trail to its close, Day 4 of the festival tied the thematic threads of the festival together, delivering a holistic and vibrant set of programmes that guided audiences through a myriad of artistic mediums– from watercolour to photography to mixed-media. Opening with the curated art tour of ARTRA Collection’s Emerging Artists of 2023, 2022, and 2020 exhibitions at The Fort Printers, Pulasthi Handuge’s ‘Reflections’ exhibit and “Poverty and Prosperity” by Kopalapillai Mathiskumar closed out the exhibitions by the ARTRA Collection artists. In the curated tour of his exhibition, Handuge guided the audience through his collection of paintings, leading them through his perspectives on Sri Lanka’s recent economic crisis, of which this collection was inspired. Through an engaging Q & A session with intrigued participants, the artist delved into the turbulent emotions behind his pieces, as he was caught between the mass exodus of his countrymen fleeing amidst an increasingly inhospitable future, and his nostalgic connection to his country, as expressed through his motif of local avian wildlife, and his reverent depictions of Sri Lankan nature. The curated tour of Kopalapillai Mathiskumar’s exhibit “Poverty and Prosperity” was conducted by Azara Jaleel, Founder and Editor-In-Chief of ARTRA Magazine on behalf of the artist, who was not able to attend the festival. Azara Jaleel guided the audience through Mathiskumar’s displayed works, delving into his evolving manipulation of mediums, and his venture into mixed-media for this collection by wielding fabric scraps and repurposed polybags to challenge dominant perceptions of impoverished desperation, while scrutinizing the normality of class and wealth injustice within society’s architecture through the micro-setting of the slums of Lucknow, India where he is currently based.

Following this, Vineet Vohra led audiences through a curated art tour of his street photography exhibition titled “Serendipity” at Thambili House in the Galle Fort. Multiple award-winning street photographer and Leica Ambassador Vineet Vohra not only led audiences through each individual photograph in his exhibit, but demonstrated his broad expertise in his craft by delving into the captured stories behind each shot, and shared his wisdom regarding the necessities within successful photography, sharing anecdotal tidbits about building a photographer’s intuition, persistence, timing, direction and patience. 

Vineet Vohra at Thambili House, Galle Fort

Coming full-circle, Charles Uzzell Edwards conducted the final session of the Art Trail at the Galle Literary Festival in the same place it had all begun, at The Fort Printers in the Galle Fort. Uzzell-Edwards hosted his “Pure Evil Drawing Club” from 5 to 6pm, a children’s art workshop that fostered creativity in a colourful group of 6 to 12 year olds. In a fun and dynamic environment, Uzzell Edwards guided the children to express themselves in a free and fun-filled manner, utilizing a colourful assortment of markers to collectively draw and express their spirit animals, and experiment with graffiti-style font lettering. 

Art from the Pure Evil Drawing Club at the Fort Printers, Galle Fort


The Art Trail had also hosted a series of open houses across some of Galle’s most prominent art heritage spaces such as the Jetwing Lighthouse, Mount Cinnamon Mirissa Hills, The Galle Fort Hotel and Lanka Living Gallery. The Jetwing Lighthouse boasted the splendor of the legendary Sri Lankan icon Geoffrey Bawa, reflecting the famed architect’s interpretation of post-modern minimalism. Featuring the sculptural staircase embellished by ornate bronze and copper balustrading by renowned artist Laki Senanayake, it depicts the historic battle of Randeniwala (1630) between the Sri Lankan and Portuguese soldiers (ARTRA Magazine, Works of Laki Senanayake Edition 64, 2023). Further, the luxury hotel embeds the works of acclaimed artists Barbara Sansoni, placed upon the backdrop of the entrance alongside those of Ena de Silva in the ceilings of the hotel’s Coat of Arms Bar & Cardamom Café, those which collectively contribute to the enamour of Bawa’s distinctive architecture. 

Jetwing Lighthouse, Galle 

Jetwing Lighthouse, Galle 

Galle Literary Festival Volunteers

Mirissa Hills, Mount Cinnamon champions the idiosyncratic style of the renowned architect C. Anjalendran, a spirited modernist who draws from Sri Lanka’s rich vernacular traditions in his authentic approach to architecture (ARTRA Magazine, Architecture of Anjalendran Edition 62, 2022). Featuring a fine collection of Sri Lankan art as well, Mirissa Hills displays the screen designed by Laki Senanayake ‘Enchanted Forest’ and an impressive art gallery running the length of the space featuring the works of local artists. Older and younger generations are represented in all three buildings from Ivan Peiris of the ‘43 Group to Druvinka.

The Galle Fort Hotel showcased the inimitable exhibition ‘A Scottish Artist in Ceylon 1907’ Edward Atkinson Hornel (1864 - 1933). Curated by Ismeth Raheem, the renowned art historian - the exhibition includes Hornel’s photographs of the famous pearl fisheries on the island’s north western coast alongside his photographs portraying the heritage and historicity of Galle Fort, featured across ARTRA Magazine's Galle Fort in the Contemporary Edition 66 (2024). This collection of fine photography is part of the E. A Hornel photographic collection in the custody of the National Trust for Scotland.

The Galle Fort Hotel, Galle Fort

The Art Trail also hosted an open house through the Lanka Living Gallery which held 'The Women's Histories of Sex Work' exhibition, which shared narratives of women who had  worked in sex work throughout, and as a result of the Sri Lankan civil war. These narratives highlighted the complexity of their lives: the social stigmatisation, sexual violence and economic challenges that they had faced, as well as the simple joys, sisterhood and the empowerment they felt for having an independent income. The narratives spoke of the need for supporting women sex workers to share their histories, and to amplify their collective voice towards accessing justice and a secure working environment. 

Celebrating the theme “Galle Fort in the Contemporary”, ARTRA’s Art Trail 2024 spotlighted contemporary works by ARTRA’s Emerging Artists | Best of 2023, 2022 & 2020, Malki Jayakody, Pulasthi Handuge, Mohamed Hathi and Mahela ‘Marco’ Manamperi, additionally foregrounding established internationally-acclaimed contemporary artists Fabienne Francotte, Leica Ambassador and multiple award-winning photographer Vineet Vohra and London-based graffiti artist and gallerist Charles Uzzell Edwards. Through a dynamic combination of art exhibitions, curated tours and intimate workshops, the Art Trail not only engaged the masses with their works and their underlying philosophies but also presented intrigued parties with the opportunity to pose questions directly to the artist and create open dialogues around their processes and perspectives on their respective vocations. The programme of the Art Trail was hosted across a selection of charming venues within the Galle Fort and beyond, foregrounding modern and contemporary art in a mix of Galle and art heritage spaces, as well as culturally prime hospitality spaces throughout the Galle Fort, which included the Galle Fort Hotel, The Fort Printers, Landesi, Thambili House, The Charleston, 30 Leyn Baan Street, Jetwing Lighthouse, Mirissa Hills and Lanka Living Gallery.

For your copy of ARTRA Magazine’s Galle Fort in the Contemporary Edition 66, call on +9477 570 1891

Written by Kavinu Cooray

Click here to purchase Galle Fort in the Contemporary Edition e66 online 

9th February, 2024 Visual Art | Paintings