Slave Island has seen a lot of change in the past year; the most striking being the flattening of a section of the age old city to make way for the new TATA mixed development project. While many have been relocated to the outskirts of Colombo, others have lost friends and neighbours in the mix. One half of old Slave Island still does exist and whilst retaining its charming character, it has been introduced to a splash of colour.
French stencil artist, Christian Guémy – known as C215 and sometimes described as ‘France’s answer to Banksy,’ has showcased his work in many exhibitions and nooks and corners around the world. Primarily a stencil artist, he focuses on portraits of the lesser fortunate such as beggars, elderly people, refuges and the homeless. It’s no surprise that he picked Slave Island as his canvas where despite being in the heart of Colombo, poverty still remains high.
Walking around Slave Island, he has painted on outer walls, living rooms, trishaws and street shops. When I walked down Dawson Street and inquired about the artist, it was evident he had gained quite a following as I was dragged by hand and shown his marvellous work.
He is still in the country, painting in Hikkaduwa and showcasing more of this work on our coastal belt. If you are in Colombo and have the chance to visit Slave Island, drop by and hunt for his work amid this age old town.