Online Exhibition The cool breeze, the peaceful atmosphere, trees all round.  The perfect environment to relax, pick up that brush and start painting.  Walking into Sapumal Foundation the first thing you hear is the squeal of laughter.  A few more steps and bright young faces appear.

The children in Noeline Fernando's art class are as bright as you've ever seen.  This is not one of those boring but important tuition classes you must force yourself to pay attention to.   Auntie Noeline, as she is fondly known as, is fun, relaxing and lets her children do what they like.  May it be paint, craft even a bit of clay work so long as you don't paint each other but some have succeeded!

Walking into the ancient house she starts to tell me how she began this extraordinary journey in which she has touched many lives.

"I didn't realise I was good at art in school.  Of course, everyone told me I was but it was Cora Abraham who really brought out my talent.

"I used to dabble a lot in paints at home and after an ear operation my parents encouraged me more.  I used to do art, pottery and batik.  I had done a painting for my brother, who was at St. Peter's College for a competition and it was selected.   After that my parents enrolled me at Melbourne Art Classes conducted by Cora Abraham."

A stream of adjectives follow as Noeline praises her old teacher for her wondrous work. "It changed my whole lifestyle."  She lowers her voice and tells me, "I wanted to be a nun," and she bursts out laughing. "But I have no regrets."

At the Melbourne Art Classes, she studied all the crafts available - painting, clay work, batik, creative craft and many more.  After the death of her father, Noeline took up her first job as an art teacher in this school.

"I love it, it still lights up my life.  With all the ups and downs I've had, this is the only thing that has kept me going.  It's my love and life."

"I was also a part of The Young Artists Group.  Mrs. Abraham initiated this group and we used to meet every Sunday at the Lionel Wendt.  It was only a handful of us but we had fun. We even had a few exhibitions.  Sadly the group is no more.   It died a natural death, most got married and stopped coming."

She describes her dream as one day owning a big house for children to come at any time and paint.  "Paints are so expensive today and art is no more a hobby for children in every walk of life but I encourage my students to use paper and cloth-any kind of throw away.  Nothing goes waste if you are creative."

"I don't like much publicity.  I do art because I like it."  she says as she describes the many exhibitions she has had.  The last was at the Barefoot Gallery in July 2000.

Noeline not only teaches at private classes but has dedicated 13 years of her life to the Piliyandala and Nuwara Eliya SOS Children's Villages for orphaned and destitute children.

"Mr. Anjandran, the architect for part of the village, asked me if I could come and to do a mural for the school wall.  I accepted.  After going there I saw that they had no exposure, they were unspoiled by the outside world and had no link to art; a cold feeling crept into my heart."

"Using familiar themes like birds, trees and flowers they started.  I was amazed at the outcome.  They were so talented.  This talent has been nurtured since that day in 1984 and the children have had many exhibitions at the Continental Hotel."

Even though she doesn't teach there any more, the children have become a part of her life.

Noeline is also a member of the staff at the School for the Special Child in Chitra Lane.

"Those children are so talented and so much fun.  They don't only do art but cards and needlework too.  Some of the boys are really good at cross-stitch.  We are going to have an exhibition in September and they are really excited."

A smile crosses her face as she thinks back on all the fun she has had. "I have had so much fun.  All I have been through has helped me become the person I am today."

Kshanika Goonesekera
Daily Mirror