Keeping Creativity Alive

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage | Published: 2:00 AM Nov 13 2021
Teen inc Keeping Creativity Alive

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage

Ceylon Today Features

Sri Lanka is home to a number of creative individuals who contribute to the country’s modern literature and art in many ways. However, the journey is never easy and is full of setbacks and discouraging moments. 

Among the many, few are able to break past the obstacles and achieve their dream of being a creator, having their work published either physically or digitally, in a platform that allows them to seek an earning for their creativity. 

Tharaka Eranda Caldera is one of that select few. The books he has authored have gained much recognition among Sri Lankan science fiction fans. The same can be said of the various graphic novels conceptualised by him as well. Currently, he is working on his third novel as well as a few other surprises.  

Teen Inc reached out to Tharaka, hoping to learn more about his thoughts on the challenges faced by Sri Lankan aspiring and established creators. 

The start

“Writing has been a hobby of mine ever since I was young,” Tharaka narrated. “And it’s been something I’ve always loved and have been passionate about.”

This passion has translated into Tharaka’s two novels, Kalpawasana Saadhaya and Iulosiya which have been positively received by many readers, rising to become one of the most popular science fiction novel series written by a Sri Lankan author mainly through word-of-mouth and social media. The good taste of his fans was affirmed when Tharaka’s first novel was nominated for the State Literary Awards of that year as well.  

Tharaka’s passion for storytelling isn’t limited only to traditional novels. This is made clear with his latest venture, the graphic novel series Kaala Manushya (titled The Dark Human in English).

Kaala Manushya (The Dark Human)

“It began with my interest in Sri Lankan mythology and folk tales,” Tharaka shared. “I’ve read a lot of our traditional folk culture and myths and was playing around with a premise that I had in mind for quite some time, which came into fruition in Kaala Manushya.”

He revealed that although he initially planned the story to be a novel, he changed his mind after making contact with illustrator Chamil Harshana.

“We talked a lot about the story and came to the conclusion that the story of Kaala Manushya would fit best with the graphic-novel format, and thus, we began the project.” 

We asked for a small snippet on what readers can expect within each page.

“The story follows a man from the big city of Colombo, who moves to a rural village and starts to practice meditation under the guidance of the monk living therein,” he explained.

“As the two dive deeper into his psyche, a sinister evil begins to manifest itself among the villagers. 

I could reveal more, but I don’t want to spoil the story too much.”

Going on print

With Tharaka working on the narrative and Chamil on illustrations, the two made good progress with the story, aided by a few close friends.

“It wasn’t an easy task, and we had a lot of help from Ishanka Dilshan and Sandakelum Wewita; two good friends of mine. But we got the job done,” Tharaka continued, sharing that four of the eight planned volumes have already been developed. However, not everything went to plan for Tharaka, Chamil and Kaala Manushya. 

We learnt that although the first edition was published and made available for readers, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns dealt a massive blow to sales, along with a bad deal with their publisher, which meant that all their plans to release subsequent volumes had to be put on hold.

“Not only that, printing in colour is expensive, and finding enough funds to bear that initial cost is challenging. Which means we have to consider alternative options.”

Challenged creatives

Much like Tharaka, many of the creatives in Sri Lanka struggle to convert their creative passions into a medium that could generate income. This has only been exaggerated with the economic setbacks experienced due to COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns.

But Sri Lanka’s creative industry has been lacklustre in many aspects for a number of reasons, one of the biggest being the lack of an audience to finance the creative economy. With Sri Lankans having very little or no disposable income, creators have little financial support for the projects they work on. 

“At the moment, most creatives engage in their creative activities mainly as a hobby,” Tharaka revealed. “This is especially true for Sri Lanka’s comic-book industry, which also lacks a large audience.” 

Hope for the future

Tharaka admitted that although comic-books in Sri Lanka are a long way from reaching its golden-age in Sri Lanka, which was decades ago, there has been a recent resurgence of interest for the art form thanks to passionate and dedicated fans and the establishment of comic-cons and other gatherings organised by them.

“The entrance of digital services is also a benefit for creators, especially because it allows creators the opportunity to publish their work for more people to enjoy with little cost. We already see a number of creators using social media to share their work and express their creativity. Overall, I think that even though creatives in Sri Lanka are tackling a steep hill, the small and steady progress leaves hope for the future.”

More to come

As for Tharaka, he is currently working on his latest novel while considering avenues to release the continuation of Kaala Manushya. “We are excited to share more stories to our readers and explore more interesting narratives, telling interesting stories.” 

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage | Published: 2:00 AM Nov 13 2021

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