The Isle, her people & their untold stories.
Who we really are: It would suffice, really, to say that we are two individuals driven by great art, or more specifically its exploration for the sake of refining ourselves as human beings and its safeguarding for future generations. But we would like to say a bit more!
Art is what it boils down to, is it not? Be it the practice of reviving the fortunes of an heirloom tomato variety through permaculture techniques, adding to the gem trade’s intrigue by engaging in a bit of experiential storytelling, or the mixing of stone powders and plant pigments to paint traditionally carved masks, there is a powerful sense of artistic expression in each of these activities.
We are deeply moved by such expressions of art and firmly believe in their power to not only educate and entertain, but transform our understanding of the full richness of the human experience. Ceylon Soul enables this for many, and so the two of us are contented and fulfilled by the work that we do. Ceylon Soul is the two of us, it is the many characters whom we create experiences around, and it is most certainly you.
A brief note on each individual follows:
Shehan De Silva: Shehan, or ‘Sk’ as he is affectionately known, has steadily cultivated a habit of furthering sustainable practices through each of his professional and personal endeavours. Whether it is in his role consulting for the Biosfera foundation, which formulates sustainable design-based solutions for agriculture and construction, the hosting of an immersive ‘Farm-to-table’ food experience involving organically sourced produce, or his keen interest in heirloom varieties of rice in Sri Lanka, there is a conservation-oriented tinge to most of his activities. The various experiences that he hosts and curates, the local characters and artisans who form their basis, and the discerning guests whose lives Ceylon Soul wishes to enrich, allow him to actively promote sustainable behaviour in a practical and concrete manner. His Sinhalese and Burgher (Eurasian) heritage allows him to offer some unique perspectives on the multicultural aspect of Ceylon Soul’s offering.
Atheeq Ifthikar: Atheeq hails from a long, illustrious line of Galle-based gem merchants. He draws heavy inspiration from the areas of tourism, entrepreneurship and the visual arts, in carving out a niche market for Ceylon Soul. An artist who expresses himself through the still camera lens, he has now also taken several decisive steps toward establishing himself as a filmmaker. He strongly believes in the power of motion pictures to, literally, move people to be better and more aware human beings. From short historical documentaries highlighting legendary local personalities, full length commercials for independent, artistically-driven brands such as ‘Sithuvili’, to the ‘Click Trail’ photography experience where Atheeq takes you through the cultural labyrinth that is the Galle Fort, there is a strong visual element to all of his work. Of Sri Lankan Moor (Muslim) descent, through Ceylon Soul he has a platform through which he can strengthen his efforts to preserve the colourful cultural heritage of Sri Lanka.
What we passionately do: Ceylon Soul is a well-thought-out effort at preserving the many elements of our multicultural heritage, and an underlying theme of social entrepreneurship pervades what we do. Even within the rich socio-cultural environment that we are privileged to operate amidst, changes in perspective and fissures have begun to appear. Let us take Ceylon Soul, or rather its base or hometown of Galle, for example. A bastion of Southern Sri Lankan history and culture, rapid urbanization and other patterns of modernization have led to many leaving behind the traditional way of life and adopting new professions. This is expected due to the economic constraints of the 21st century.
In many ways, Ceylon Soul’s role helps reverse this and safekeep tradition and culture, as we offer these individuals or artisans an added incentive to continue their beautiful, important work. In offering you a range of neatly curated alternate experiences, we contribute to the maintenance of centuries-old vocations and habits. Therefore, we are passionately in love with our offering to you, and we constantly look to improve how you receive the local experiences that we facilitate and to further their breadth. We also consistently encourage sustainable practices, in the form of rain water harvesting, organic produce, chemical-free agriculture, permaculture, natural paints and pigments, no plastics, and a list of other simple yet practical methods aimed at conserving our environment.
Where we call home: Since time immemorial, our island has been spoken of with an almost mystical tone and, therefore, received the deep affection of explorers, intellectuals, traders, artists and adventurers of old. And so, many are the interesting characters and stories that form the nation’s identity. The Moors from North Africa, the Malays from the island of Java in modern-day Indonesia, the Sinhalese said to be originally from the Bengal region straddling current-time Bangladesh and West Bengal in India, the Burghers — Eurasian descendants of primarily the Portuguese and Dutch colonizers, the Tamils originating from Tamil Nadu and other parts of South India, the native Veddha people, and a host of other ethnicities in smaller numbers, form the cultural makeup of present-day Sri Lanka.
Galle, Ceylon Soul’s base, is home to formidable numbers of each of the above mentioned groups of people. It serves up a delightful cross section of the full Sri Lankan experience with a Southern slant. Galle’s unique standing in Sri Lanka’s native and colonial history adds much spice to its story. Due to its geographic position, it has served as a confluence of people and culture for thousands of years. And now, it also boasts modern amenities on par with any city around the globe. It makes for an ideal environment to absorb the fascinating set of local experiences that Ceylon Soul offers. Naked and unadulterated, let us share with you what makes us a fiercely proud people — our multicultural heritage.
Our unique offering to you: We are able to do what we do only due to the healthy relationships that we have formed with the individuals our experiences are centred around. What we offer you is a unique perspective on their daily routines and lives, and this is often a highly personal affair for all involved. Therefore, there is a shared sense of camaraderie between the experience providers, who we have carefully picked, and Ceylon Soul. It definitely sets us apart in our delivery of the best local, alternate experiences.
The service attribute mentioned above plus the sheer novelty of what we facilitate, further strengthen our esteemed status within the niche experience-market in Sri Lanka. ‘The Mask Man’, for example, is a foray into the life of a local artist, who displays and narrates his hometown’s ancient tradition of mask carving, mask painting, and visual storytelling. This art form is endemic to the Southern coastal town of Ambalangoda, and is seldom arranged and discovered through other avenues. Or take the ‘Gem Stories’ series, which is hosted by an eminent gem merchant from Galle’s influential Sri Lankan Moor community. This branch of Sri Lankan Muslims have for centuries closely nurtured the island’s gem trade, and the fascinating stories that he recounts over a scrumptious homemade lunch prepared by his equally engaging wife, will slowly unravel an experience that simply cannot be replicated elsewhere.
Being mindful contributes much to our final product, service, and perspective; mindfulness in attending to the intricate details of each experience and mindfulness in being wholly present when hosting the various encounters. This is another attribute unique to our offering.