HISTORY OF T.P. HUNT MEMORIAL ART GALLERY
The art gallery located at Chavakachcheri, Thenmarachy, Northern province of Sri Lanka that serves the best support for art has its own remarkable history. It was established by Mrs. Evangerline Yogamany Alagaratnam
With her passion for art, she studied art and obtained a degree in fine arts in the USA. She wished to share her love for art with students in various parts of Ceylon. To that end she gifted art education and art supplies to students and encouraged them.
With that motive in mind she established an Art Gallery and art education center at her ancestral land in Chavakachcheri in memory of her father Thomas Poage Hunt and named it T.P. Hunt Memorial Art Gallery. Through this she established a place for poor students and artists.
Not only Thenmarachy, but the whole Northern and Eastern provinces have benefited. This institution has become a place for students and art teachers learning with classes, seminars and workshops. It has also provided a place for students and artist to display their work with pride and sell.(Exbitions)
HISTORY OF REV.THOMAS PETER HUNT.
He was the 6th son of Townsman Murugappa. He was born in 1839 and named Sathasivam at Periyamavaddy, a village near Chavakachcheri. His father was keen to educate his sons. However, there were no organized schools at that time. So, he started what was called “Veranda School.” He had to sell his earrings to buy Mahabharata ola book for his sons to study.
He was then sent to collegiate institution in Vaddukottai. There he mastered Tamil texts, Vedanta and Siddhartha philosophies of Hinduism and the epics. He then joined the American Mission Seminary School where he studied English, western Science and Arts. He was appointed as teacher the institute. While there he learnt the doctrines of Christianity and accepted Jesus Christ as his savior. He was baptized with the name THOMAS PETER HUNT.
His knowledge of English earned him a well-paid government job. He also received a meager salary for his missionary work. He was ordained as a presbyter of the Chavakachcheri church in 1855 at age 24. He served Chavakachcheri church for seventeen years. He was invited to join the faculty of Jaffna College in 1872. In 1880 he returned to Chavakachcheri as parish priest until his death.
As arranged, he married Asda Parvatham, a girl born to a Hindu family from Madduvil.
He was a wise man and could answer any challenging questions brought up by Hindus and others. In angry situations he is said to smile or remain silent saying “offense on one side alone will not prolong the fight.” He was also known for his friendly facial expression always. He was a philanthropist helping those in need of food, shelter, clothing and transport in his bullock cart or horse carriage. He was known to be very well organized and methodical in his life and household.
His Christian life was exemplary and he was a man of prayer. He would wake up at 4:00 am and spend few hours in solitary prayer, Bible reading and meditation. He went against Hindu beliefs of auspicious time etc.
His academic contributions were mainly at Jaffna College. He taught there and worked hard to improve the curriculum and courses. He also tirelessly got support for this work by raising funds, travelling all over Ceylon and India.
His service as pastor and evangelist was at Chavakachcheri, where served for 47 years. He was a considered a “true watchman of the Lord’s vineyard and shepherd of his flock.” Though he was an highly educated Intellectual, he came down to the level of ordinary people and children so that they could fully understand what he was teaching. He was strict in observing sabbath and expected others to do so.
He made regular home visits, especially those who could not attend church. “A pastor who visits homes will have people visit the churches.” He helped his members find educational opportunity, jobs and even marriage partners! On Sunday evenings he fixed bullock carts. He was against the caste system and tried his best to change it. He was totally opposed to drinking alcohol and alcoholism.
He was not only pastor for the church but the whole community. He was respected for his profound knowledge and his character. That is why there was such a large turnout in the community for his funeral.
He went to be with the Lord on April 23rd, 1903
(Extracts from “The life History of the Late Rev.T.P. Hunt”
By E.K. Jesudasan of Chavakachcheri. )
My name is Evangerline Yogamany Alagaratnam. I am the daughter of Thomas Poage Hunt and great granddaughter of Rev. Thomas Peter Hunt. I was born in Sri-Lanka on October 31st 1941 at Green Memorial Hospital, Manipay.
I studied at the Kandy Convent, Dreiberg College, Uduvil Girls High school and the Jaffna Convent. I did my advanced level exam at Uduvil Girl’s High School.
After that I went to do nursing in England. I returned to Sri -Lanka after five years and married to Dr. Dharma Alagaratnam. We moved from Chavakachcheri to Agrapatna. We had a daughter, Diane Manjula.
We left Sri Lanka in 1975 to USA. We settled in Chicago, and had two more children, Joann Premela and Joel Henry Adrian. All that time I had a desire to paint, however, my focus was bringing up the children, as my husband was busy at the hospital.
After my children had grown, finished their school, got married and moved out, I had free time to pursue my interests.
My second daughter Joann was very good in art. She encouraged me to learn art, since I had the desire to learn. However, I said “ I don’t know how to draw”. She replied “that is what classes are for, classes teach you how.” We went to night classes together. I was 65 at that time. I ended up taking all the other classes beside art and got an Associate Degree in fine arts.
My art Professor: Jenifer Hereth encouraged me to have an art show after I finished 10 pieces of oil on Canvas. I was so excited, most of the painting were sold. That year I happened to visit Sri-Lanka, I visited many schools in the Northern Province. I brought some art supplies and distributed to different schools in Vavuniya, Klinochi, Chavakachcheri, Jaffna and Uduvil.
The Uduvil art teacher, Mr. Arul Ramesh, Got the students to use all the canvases and Other art material I gave them. Since there was no art gallery in the Northern Province, they displayed their work at private J. D. Perera art gallery in Colombo, the Capital of Sri Lanka, about 200 miles away. The Uduvil Principle, five Teachers, and 35 students went by bus one weekend and displayed their work. Most of their work was sold.
In the mean time I had a land in Chavakachcheri. Given to me by my parents as dowry . The house was destroyed during the war. I claimed the land from the Army. I donated the Land to a school to build an English School. Unfortunately, they couldn’t fulfill the desire, so they gave me the land back.
Then it dawned on me “why should our students in the North go all the way to Colombo to display their work”. By the grace of God, I was able to build an art gallery. This was my dream, our children here in Sri-Lanka should be able to learn art and fulfill their dreams. We are enjoying the children learning art from the age of three to GCE advanced level. We are spending our pension money to build and run the place with additional loans. All the students are given free art supply. We also have little art supply shop selling art supplies at or near cost.