Sri Lankan artist, illustrator, and writer Sybil Wettasinghe passed away due to complications related to old age in the early hours of July 1. Wettasinghe began her career as a journalist and joined the Sinhalese-language Lankadeepa at the age of 17. Her work became famous across the island when she joined Janatha, a part of Sri Lanka’s large media house Lake House Publications.
Born near the southern city of Galle in 1927, the children’s book writer was a national icon in Sri Lanka. Her most famous work Kuda Hora (The Umbrella Thief) was published in 1956. This book was translated into nine languages including Norwegian, Chinese, Japanese, and Tamil.
A talented illustrator, Wettasinghe would regularly hold exhibitions in Japan, where she continued to receive awards for her books. In 2012, she was awarded the Nikkei Asian Prize for Culture. Her books were also popular in Scandinavia and were translated into Swedish and Danish.
In Sri Lanka, she was awarded the Vishwa Prasadini Award for Art and Children’s Literature by Prime Minister Sirimao Bandaranaike in 1996. In 2004, she was also awarded the Kala Keerthi, a national honor that is awarded for extraordinary achievements in the fine and performing arts. Sybil Wettasinghe is survived by her three children and five grandchildren.