Chenuli, a girl who dreams of change
By Kusumanjalee Thilakarathna
Chenuli Subasinghe is a 14-year-old budding photographer from Kotikawatta, Colombo. She attends Gothami Balika Vidyalaya, Colombo and is currently studying in Grade Nine. She started pursuing her passion in photography in 2017 and her photographs have been displayed at many photo exhibitions. She says photography is only her hobby and what she really wants to become when she is older is a politician – a leader who can help people in Sri Lanka change and become better citizens.
Chenuli, tell us more about yourself.
I am an only child. My father is an engineer and my mother used to be a housewife. She has started working again after my father fell ill. I first attended Sanghamitta Girls’ School, Colombo. I was there until Grade Five. I passed the Grade Five Scholarship exam and got admission to Gothami (Balika) Vidyalaya. I was the Junior Head Prefect back in Sanghamitta.
I am currently an active member of the school’s photography society, St. John Ambulance Association, media club, as well as the debating club. I have chosen to study drama as my aesthetic subject. If I ever get a chance, I would like to try out acting too.
What inspired you to join the photographic society in school?
Well, I didn’t really know our school had a photographic society until some akkis came to our class and told us about it. Listening to them, I felt as if this was something I would want to do. I am glad I made that decision because it has helped me a lot since then to gather experience.
Mr. Narada Amaratunge is our photography instructor at school. He trained me from the beginning. Ms. Rathna Witharana and Punya Denipitiya are the teachers in charge of our society. And our Madam Principal Ms. Subashinie Dematagoda always guides us with what we are supposed to do. I joined the club in 2017.
Since then, I have learnt how important it is to know how to capture a photo properly or which angles suit the subject of the photo the most. I am hopeful that I will be able to improve my skills further. Photography is a medium you can use to communicate without the support of any language, so it becomes a universal language. Anyone can learn something by looking at a photograph.
What category of photography do you like the most?
I love nature photography. I love nature anyway, so automatically nature photography also became my favourite. There is a lot to learn from the things happening around us. You just have to observe these things keenly.
What will be your future in photography?
Well, I am happy with what I have achieved in these couple of years. I have been shortlisted in final rounds of photography competitions, and my photographs have grabbed people’s attention at exhibitions, especially school exhibitions. I have achieved all this only with the knowledge I gathered from school. I really enjoy this; it relaxes me and brings me joy.
But, I don’t think I want to become a photographer by profession. I would love to continue it as a hobby.
You said you were convinced by senior students at school to join the photographic society. What will you tell your juniors if they come to you asking if they should join too?
Firstly, they need to be enthusiastic about doing this, and then comes the commitment. If they have these two qualities, learning other skills will not be hard for them.
Also, they should learn to admire a photo. It is actually a medium of learning. It makes people sensitive and able to deliver messages which are hard to describe using words. So, learning photography will help them see the world better and become more sensitive towards the things that are happening around them.
You had taken up heavy responsibility becoming the Junior Head Prefect of your previous school. Would you like to share this experience with us?
I was just 10 years old. And yes, it was a big responsibility for me. But I had support from my teachers, parents, and friends. So it was not too hard. But I do feel that it improved my leadership qualities.
How is your experience with the St. John Ambulance Association?
I joined this group last year, and I have found the knowledge I have gained working with them to be highly useful. It is something you have to know, because people around you get hurt all the time, they fall sick all the time. It is very useful when you know the right way of giving first aid because people can make a situation worse if they do not give proper first aid.
What is your ambition?
I want to become a member of Parliament. This is not because I like to debate or have taken leadership roles in school. I strongly believe that we need to make big changes in our country in order to make it a better place to live.
We have heard so many negative things about politics and politicians. Why do you think it’s a good idea to become a politician?
The bad things we hear are the exact reasons why children should think about politics. It’s not a bad thing. When we don’t learn about politics, we don’t know what these big people are doing. If we do know, wrong things will not continue to happen.
I am very sensitive to issues like drug abuse among schoolchildren or environmental pollution. I always think about how I can contribute to stop these things. Some children are not aware of these evil things around us, and so they easily fall victim to them. I think our attitudes should be developed properly in order to understand the world better. I also feel that there is a lot of inequality in our society. For example, compare a school in Colombo and a school from a very rural area – can they even be compared? The gap between facilities and quality of education is very large.
This is why I think I should try to become a politician. A politician has the power to change most of these problems we currently face. If I have that power, I will change our country for the better, where everyone can live happily in a clean environment.