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Nelum Pokuna Art Street

Nelum Pokuna Mawatha, Colombo 7

The Nelum Pokuna Art Street is Colombo's only or at least oldest 'street art' space: a long pavement stretch of paintings by local artists, opposite Viharamahadevi Park, frequented by art enthusiasts and tourists.

The Nelum Pokuna Art Street is Colombo's only daily street art scene, known to most of us as the 'bunch of paintings outside Viharamahadevi Park'. 

Although at first glance a lot of the paintings look generic, if you look closely you'll find some real gems, at very good prices, ranging from Rs. 2K to 20K. We hung out here one day and talked to some of the full-time artists who run the spot. 

As an artist, Dilini Prabashini's paintings caught my eye - her brightly coloured, stippled paintings popped out among all the stilt-fishing and Sigiriya-frescoe style art that abound on this stretch. Her paintings were watched over by her brother Pasindu who told us that he and his brother were artists as well. 

Ajith Rajapaksa who has had his paintings on this stretch for the past four years is from Nuwera and is a full-time artist. We asked him why the artists here despite their obvious talent keep painting the same stilt fishermen and traditional village scenes; he told us it was just the kind of thing that sold well among the Sri Lankan expats who were back in the country on vacation. He also said that artists on this stretch could earn anything between 25 to 50K a week. 

Sunil Jayaratna is one of the older artists, he's had his work up here for the past ten years. He informed us that the Nelum Pokuna Art Street was 20 years old, and that there is an official Society, a panel of academics and artists headed by A.C. Nuwan, that regulates the street and its participants. He said most of the painters here are also lecturers of art at the University. As a guitarist, Sunil does trippy guitar-themed paintings which he says are pretty popular among fellow guitarists who walk by. 

He believes being an artist requires a thorough study of the subject at hand - that for example, an artist who paints a Kandyan dancer, must know all about the dance, the costume and its history to do justice.

If you're looking to decorate your room, this street is the best place to check out for starters, as opposed to Colombo's galleries and stores that have a tendency to rip your wallet to shreds in exchange for art. Among the traditional stock Sri Lankan images, you are sure to find some amazing modern pieces of startling colour and workmanship. 

Especially if you're an artist, this is a wonderful stretch to just mosy down later in the evenings for inspiration. Besides the sweep of local art, the cobblestone floors and yellow flowered trees make for a pleasant stroll too. 


Nelum Pokuna Mawatha's art scene is an interesting space, especially on the weekends, when all the artists are present beside their work. Some of the art is repetitive and trite to cater to tourists, but you'll regardless find some very creative distinct pieces among the lot as well, for a good bargain. 


The works are mainly canvasses and can be removed from their frames and rolled up for easy transport - useful if you plan on taking them abroad.


Nelum Pokuna Mawatha, Colombo 7


This stretch is opposite Viharamahadevi Park parallel to the National Art Gallery and Nelum Pokuna Theatre.


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Open 11.00AM to 6.00PM daily (roughly, provided it doesn't rain)

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