SAARC International Women’s Day 2018

In 2018, the SAARC Cultural Centre celebrated SAARC International Women’s Day, in collaboration with the Department of Cultural Affairs in Sri Lanka, on Thursday the 8th of March 2018, at the District Secretariat in Kalutara.  The International Women’s Day was celebrated in collaboration with the Department of Culture of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Wayamba Development and Cultural Affairs and the District Secretariat of Kalutara.

The Chief Guest was Ms. Yasoja Gunasekara, Senior Director General of the SAARC Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sri Lanka and the former Sri Lankan Ambassador to Bangladesh.  Mr. Munir Ghiasy, the Charge d’Affairs from the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Sri Lanka and Mr. Intisar Sulehri, the Press Attaché from the High Commission of Pakistan in Sri Lanka participated as Guests of Honour.  The celebration commenced with traditional Drummers and Dancers leading the Chief Guest and other dignitaries to the Auditorium which was followed by the lighting of the traditional oil lamp by all Honoured Guests and dignitaries, the Director and Professional Staff Members of the SAARC Cultural Centre.  The Welcome Speech was made by Mr. U.D.C. Jayalal, District Secretary for Kalutara and the Director of SAARC Cultural Centre, Mr. Wasanthe Kotuwella addressed the enthusiastic audience with warm wishes for the celebration of Women’s Day and Women.  The Chief Guest Ms. Yasoja Gunasekara, the Senior Director General of the SAARC Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sri Lanka encouraged the women to embrace their role as peacemakers and the corner stone of a society in her address.  The Vote of Thanks at the end of the Programme was presented by the Deputy Director for Programmes, Ms. Kishani Jayasinghe – Wijayasekara and concluded an enjoyable, informative and inspirational Programme.  The auditorium (650 seats) was filled to its capacity with women of all ages, careers and lifestyles from the area joining us to celebrate the SAARC International Women’s Day.

This year the International Women’s Day was celebrated through an aesthetic journey and appreciation of South Asian music.  The music was interspersed with educational and inspiring information on the changing roles of rural women and acknowledgement of their contributions to the national economy, building confidence and self-esteem of the women in society, creating awareness of the psychological factor that affect and influence women, to appreciate and acknowledge the beauty of women as depicted in poetry, songs, art and culture, to appreciate women as the corner stone of any society.

The theme of the International Women’s Day 2018 was “A Mother’s Song: An aesthetic journey through South Asia in search of the Rhythms of Love” and the programme was conducted by Mrs. Anusha Gokula Fernando, the Director of the Department of Cultural Affairs in Sri Lanka, with the accompaniment of live musicians illustrating her words.  The Programme consisted of an aesthetic exploration and appreciation of rhythm, music, tone, language, song and many aspects of South Asian music, especially formulated for the womenfolk of the Kalutara District.  The Programme further included identifying and understanding South Asian customs and the rhythms of daily life and circumstance, common to the Region.  Most importantly it served to encourage and enhance the enjoyment and appreciation of culture through the music and song of the South Asian Region. The Programme was based on an International Programme titled “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives.”

SAARC Exhibition of Paintings

The SAARC Cultural Centre is the custodian of the paintings created by the Artists from the SAARC Region during the SAARC Artists Camp held annually in different locations.  The SCC will an exhibition showcasing these paintings to the public in Sri Lanka to understand the art and culture of the region through the eyes of artists.

International Women’s Day Celebrations

The SAARC Cultural Centre will be highlighting women and their remarkable journey, showcasing their unique talents, immense potential and generous spirit.

SAARC Literary Award and Ceremony 2018

The Honoured Members of the 54th Programming Committee and the Governing Board Members of the 9th Governing Board Meeting of the SAARC Cultural Centre approved the presentation of the SAARC Literary Award 2018, which would bring attention to the Writers of South Asia within an International sphere.  The SAARC Literary Award commenced with a nomination from the Member State of Afghanistan in 2018 and as per SAARC practice, this will be followed in alphabetical order, by subsequent Awards to the Honoured Member States of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka,.

South Asia is known as the home of world’s best Epics, Stories and Poems which is an integral part of culture through the centuries.  The Region shares a common literary tradition that has developed through the centuries – through varied and scattered times and spaces.  Ranging from oral histories to epic poems, the South Asian poetry tradition and the written word offers a rich and pulsating experience of the unique aspects of South Asia.

The delight and influence of South Asian Literature as a catalyst that brings together diverse cultures within the Region reflects a cultural confluence unsurpassed by any other region of the world.  This rich and vibrant mingling deserves to be appreciated and celebrated by giving due recognition to indigenous cultures and styles represented by the Region so as to celebrate unity within diversity and to preserve splendid South Asian expressions that are a fundamental part of the Region’s cultural ethos.

Within the period of the last two decades, we have witnessed South Asian writers, who have written in the English language, have won many prestigious literary awards celebrating their great contribution to the literary world.  The SAARC Literary Award will be giving Regional recognition and appreciation of the Region to the Writers of South Asia.

Winner of SAARC Literary Award
The Inaugural SAARC Literary Award 2018 was Awarded to Mr. Najibullah Manalai, nominated by the Honoured Member State of Afghanistan.  Mr. Manalai is a multilingual writer of poetry, of narrative fiction, a newspaper columnist, translator and political analyst.  He writes in Pashto, Dari (Farsi), French and English.  He is building bridges between Western Philosophy and Oriental Mysticism through translations of Western and Afghan literature.  During the last decade he has worked tirelessly to promote reading and books in Afghanistan.  He is the creator of the “Golden Reed Prize” in Afghanistan, given annually to a literary personality, highlighting the importance of literature and promoting other writers.

The SAARC Literary Award Ceremony 2018
The SAARC Literary Award 2018 was presented at the National Literary Awards held at the Galle Literary Festival which took place in the World Heritage City of Galle on 26th January 2018.  The Minister of Finance and Mass Media Hon. Mangala Samaraweera was the Chief Guest at this event.  Mr. Manalai was presented the inaugural SAARC Literary Award by the Minister of Finance and Mass Media Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, and the Director of the SAARC Cultural Centre Mr. Wasanthe Kotuwella.

SAARC Handicraft Exhibition and Workshop

The SAARC Handicraft Exhibition and Workshop will provide a suitable platform for the Exhibition of handmade treasures form the South Asian Region and to provide the creators of these valuable pieces of the Region’s Heritage, a forum for discussion, interaction and exchange of valuable tools and knowledge of the trade, within an atmosphere of friendship and Regional corporation.  The commitment of the SAARC Cultural Centre to promote and further shared South Asian culture through handicrafts has been consistent, comprehensive and well received.  Over the past few years, this Programme, which has been held in several SAARC Member States, has given craft persons in the Region the opportunity to exhibit their products, meet other artisans from the Region and discuss new trends and techniques within the industry.  SAARC Cultural Centre aims to rejuvenate the creation of local handicrafts and promote social regeneration and social cohesion through the Handicraft Industry.

The SAARC Handicraft Exhibition and Workshop will be held at the Shilpakala Academy in Dhaka, Bangladesh, from 30th November 2017 to 3rd December 2017.  In addition to an Exhibition and the display of crafts, there will also be the additional aim of promoting the exchange of knowledge and technical expertise amongst its Artisans and to promote the development of new designs and products which are appropriate and attractive to the demands of the new world market.  Lying at crossroads between the arts, business and technology, the creative industries sector comprises a large variety of creative fields, from those heavily industrialised such as advertising and marketing, broadcasting, film industries etc, to those which are less so, like cultural industries. This sector is increasingly important for the benefit of the people of the Region, from the perspective of heritage preservation and economic terms, and the SAARC Cultural Centre is committed to assisting the Region to realise its full potential.  Development of creative cultural enterprises and creative industries, promoting cultural product development, creation of market opportunities, exchange of information and networking arrangements is in accordance with the underlying principal of encouraging better cultural understanding between the SAARC Member States.

Preliminary Meeting
A Preliminary Meeting was held on 28th November 2017 at the Shilapakala Academy chaired by Mr. Liaquat Ali Director General of the Shilpakala Academy with Mr. Wasanthe Kotuwella, Director of the SAARC Cultural Centre and Ms. Kishani Jayasinghe-Wijayasekara, Deputy Director Programmes at the SAARC Cultural Centre at the head table.

SAARC Cultural Festival on Traditional Dance

Culture within the South Asian Region is rich, diverse and is flavoured with a multitude of influences.  The very concept of art and culture, knows no boundaries and has the ability to transcend differences and unite nations and people.  Few entities are as powerful as the universally accepted mechanism of building bridges and fostering understanding through the arts of cultures.  There are few experiences in life that could measure the joy, understanding and acceptance of bearing witness to the glorious spectacles and varied and wonderful displays of Culture.  Cultural Festivals also have the ability to bring together individuals and nations with the mutual interest of exchanging art.  Witnessing and being party to such cultural exchanges is one of the most powerful ways in which to experience culture, inherent traditions, people and their lifestyles and above all, to promote cultural development and Regional corporation.  The Festival will celebrate the diversity of cultural dance across the Region, recognising ethnicities and the artistic talents and unique abilities of the people of the SAARC Region.

The SAARC Cultural Festival on Traditional Dance will be held at the Shilpakala Academy in Dhaka, Bangladesh from 30th November 2017 to 3rd December 2017.  The Festival would commence with an Opening Parade with Dancers from all the participating Member States joining the occasion followed by an Opening Performance by all participating Member States.  There will be similar performances by all participants at different venues in the vicinity so that more people will have an opportunity to witness and experience the rich cultural dance traditions of the Region.  An Interactive Workshop is also organized during this period dedicated to Dance and all things related to Dances.  On 3rd December 2017 there will be a performance by all Dancers of the participating Member States.

Preliminary Meeting
A Preliminary Meeting was held on 28th November 2017 at the Shilapakala Academy chaired by Mr. Liaquat Ali Director General of the Shilpakala Academy with Mr. Wasanthe Kotuwella, Director of the SAARC Cultural Centre and Ms. Kishani Jayasinghe-Wijayasekara, Deputy Director Programmes at the SAARC Cultural Centre at the head table.

The SAARC Film Festival 2017

The SAARC Film Festival was successfully concluded with the SAARC Film Awards at the National Film Corporation Cinema Hall on 25th November 2017.  Mrs. Rosy Senananayake, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Hon. Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, former High Commissioner to Malaysia, former Parliamentarian and State Minister of Child Development and Media figure graced the occasion as the Guest of Honour.  Film Artists of Sri Lanka from all walk of the Film Industry came to support the fellow artists of the SAARC Region and it was a gathering of luminaries and film enthusiasts.
A Panel of impartial Jury Members – Dr. Anne Demy-Geroe of Australia, Dr. Antonio Costa Valente of Portugal and Mr. Amir Masoud Soheili of Iran made the selections.  The SAARC Film Awards 2017 are as follows:

For a highly accessible representation of the important themes not only of colour but of women’s perceptions of body image

For a brave debut feature about a controversial subject in a conservative society

For the skilful interplay between the sound and the vision in a film full of many characters and crowded locations

For its role in supporting the director with smooth storytelling and focusing on the main characters in a film shot in limited locations and over a short period of time

For very effectively creating ambiance, using only existing light

For the effective use of a range of cinematographic styles appropriate to the changes in mood

For creating a very humanistic and coherent story combining a strong range of characters and complex interplay of moods

For its restrained use of traditional music to underscore the narrative

For the delicate ensemble performances of the 3 actors to convey an in-depth portrait of a marginalised group

For a highly credible performance that maintained the character’s deception until the final reveal for both the other characters and the audience

For a subtle portrayal of poverty that used metaphor to discuss the issue of education in Afghanistan

For the creative bridging of script and film in handling a broad range character types

For its delicate depiction of political and social issues of a particular historical era through the eyes of a young untouchable boy

For its originality and the overall excellent execution of a complex narrative

SAARC Film Festival 2017

A Powerful and Unique Experience in Cultural Diversity

Dates: 21st to 25th November 2017
Venue:  National Film Corporation Cinema Hall, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 07, Sri Lanka.
Entrance:  Free

Since its inception in 2011, the SAARC Film Festival has been held in Sri Lanka, and with every year, it has gained a reputation for promoting and featuring some of the best films from the SAARC Region.  The SAARC Cultural Centre (SCC), in keeping with its mandate of promoting culture in the region through different modes of art, will once again showcase films from the Region as expressions of culture at its forthcoming SAARC Film Festival.  The SAARC Member States will nominate some of their art work which showcases the cinematic imagination of the SAARC Region, using the medium of Film.  A reputed panel of international judges select the best films, and several awards are presented as an incentive to continue producing quality, thought provoking and representational films for the Region.

This is an event unique to the Region and one that has caused interest and excitement amongst the people of South Asia since 2011.  We now want to take it to the world, through the portal of South Asia and build it into a truly magnificent and international festival experience.  The message of tolerance and the power of film is easily experienced through the screen with every Member State given the opportunity to screen and showcase some of their best creations and form a vibrant collage and tapestry of meaningful films from the Region.  The Film Festival will focus on films first screened after 2015, from all Member States, inviting Directors of these movies to partake in workshops conducted to encourage and improve future productions.

We warmly invite you to join us as we explore the world of Film and Cinema indigenous to the SAARC Region.  Most importantly, be present as we showcase a very special part of culture and art within our varying and wonderfully diverse Member States.  We warmly invite you to join us, as we resume our journey in 2017 to bring South Asian Film to the forefront of the International Film World.

SAARC Film Festival Awards

The following Awards will be presented, following selection by an International Panel of Judges at the end of the Film Festival.  The decision of the Judges will be Final.

  1. Award for the Best Feature Film
  2. Award for the Best Short Film
  3. Award for the Best Director
  4. Award for the Best Actor
  5. Award for the Best Actress
  6. Award for the Best Cinematographer
  7. Award for the Best Editor
  8. Award for the Best Screenplay
  9. Award for the Best Sound Designer
  10. Award for the Best Original Score
  11. Award for the Best Film – Open Category
  12. Special Jury Award

SAARC Film Festival Catalogue


SAARC Cultural Extravaganza

Culture within the South Asian Region is extremely diverse and is formed of many different types of artistry. Music, dance, art, film, literature, poetry etc are a few examples of the wonderfully dynamic ways within which a country and indeed an entire Region could share their unique and colourful cultural heritage. On this occasion, we hope to focus on the unifying and incredibly varied form of culture, Music.

The SAARC Cultural Extravaganza will be held in the Member State of Pakistan and the dates will be announced shortly.  This Programme will take place over the course of four days in 2017.

There will be an opportunity to showcase and share a variety of Musical genres from the Region, with performances, interactive workshops and fellowship opportunities for the Musicians.

We hope to include the following elements in the Cultural Extravaganza, subject to confirmation from the Host Member State of Pakistan:

  1. Opening Ceremony and Inaugural Performance of traditional music: The Opening Ceremony of the Extravaganza will include a performance featuring all the musical artists from the participating Member States.  It will showcase the musical talents of the Region, and display the diverse traditional cultural musical identity of each Member State. Musicians are requested to be in traditional attire wherever possible, so there will be an additional element of visual diversity as well.
  2. Additional performance: We hope to arrange an additional performance for the Musicians which will give the musicians to further showcase a different genre of music, giving them the opportunity to display their versatility as musicians
  3. Interactive Workshop – There will be an interactive workshop facilitated by a professional musician, which will encourage participating musicians to share the unique aspects of their traditional music. It will include discussions about the importance of musical education and its importance in the Region. It will also consider other varied forms of music such as popular, film, folk music etc. The Interactive Workshop will be open to all artists, teachers and students.
  4. Session for creativity and fellowship: We hope to include a very unique combined performance by all the participating Member States for the Closing Ceremony. This would give all Musicians an opportunity to interact and create something they enjoy and which is unique. Through it, strengthen the relationship between the musicians from the participating Member States. We will schedule adequate rehearsal time during which we hope the participating musicians may be able to prepare a joint musical item for the Closing Ceremony
  5. Closing Ceremony: The highlight of the Closing Ceremony will be the jointly produced piece of music, which will have been prepared by the participating Member States.


  1. All Member States are invited to nominate a maximum of 5 musicians each to participate in the Programme. The Host Member State of Pakistan, is invited to nominate a maximum of 10 participants to attend the Programme.
  2. Nominated artists should have excelled in their field of music and the use of traditional instruments is encouraged.
  3. The artists should be prepared to present up to a minimum of 3 musical items for the duration of the Extravaganza, between approximately 6-8 mins duration each. One item should include traditional music.
  4. Musicians will be required to bring their musical instruments with them.

If you are a part of, or know of, a team of up to 5 musicians who would benefit from this opportunity, please contact the relevant line Ministry relating to Culture and SAARC Activities in your Country regarding an official nomination.

Airfare is generally provided by the nominating Member State and all accommodation, hospitality and transfers in Pakistan, will be provided by the SAARC Cultural Centre for all Officially Nominated Participants.


  1. Names of the nominated artists, together with the relevant details, need to be sent through the relevant Ministry concerned, via the Foreign/External Affairs Ministries in the respective Member States, to the SAARC Secretariat.
  2. A biography, photograph and contact details of each Nominated Musician from each participating Member State, should be sent directly – via email – to:
    The Deputy Director – Programmes, The SAARC Cultural Centre:

    With a copy to:
    The Documentation Officer, The SAARC Cultural Centre:

This material will be edited as appropriate by the SAARC Cultural Centre, and will be included in the Brochure prepared for the Programme.

The details of the Musicians as stated above should reach the SAARC Cultural Centre at the earliest convenience.