As the name suggests, the group started in 1943. This community of artists belonged to a growing independence movement in what was then the British colony of Ceylon. The group imagined an artistic identity free from colonial power structures and reframed the relationship between local traditions and European art and technology.
Lionel Wendt led the group as a photographer and a writer. He photographed his countrymen with a sense of autonomy that they were denied under colonial rule. His friend, Pablo Neruda, wrote that Wendt “was the central figure of a cultural life torn between the death rattles of the Empire and a human appraisal of the untapped values of Ceylon.” The group grew to include painters, filmmakers and dancers. It contributed to the island’s independence from Britain in 1948 and its postcolonial identity.
Image: Lionel Wendt, Young Man With Fishing Net (1935)