While I was driving from Colombo to Galle while on my trip to Sri Lanka, my rather knowledgeable driver and guide stopped at Bentota and asked me if I am up to experience something formidable? My curiosity was piqued and of course I am always up for adventure, I nodded with childlike enthusiasm and we started driving inwards. The highway from Colombo to Galle is good, wide roads and stands up to international standards, however when we turned inwards, the roads were narrower and it reminded me of my own country, to be specific a countryside in Kerala, India. Coconut trees and lush greenery all around. Some ten kilometres after our detour, we stopped in front of a gate which looked like a gateway to someone’s private residence and lo and behold I was at Brief Garden the residence of the late Bevis Bawa, the landscape architect of the century. I had heard more of his brother – Geoffrey Bawa who is regarded as being one of the most important and influential Asian architects of the twentieth century but I was very excited to go inside and see for myself what lay within that formidable exterior.
My Guide, Dewthilina, got us entry tickets to get inside the quarters; it was indeed something out of the world. So aptly put by ‘lonely planet’ – “A barely controlled riot of a garden out of The Jungle Book, the grounds are a lovely place to get lost.”
For some time, I did get lost in the variety of rare tropical flora that the garden houses including genetically altered fruits – dwarfed pineapple and lady’s finger.
The estate was apparently a rubber plantation formerly, but today it is a hillside garden with superb views and fantastic artwork – from erotic sculpture to a beautiful mural of Sri Lankan life in the style of Marc Chagall, which were created both by Bevis himself and other artists. The nude sculptures are all adolescent boys sprouting out their manhood. Dramatic of all these statues is a life size well-built and kindly endowed youth placed in the alfresco shower in the bathroom garden; however, every piece of art is very artistically created without offending a visiting guest.
VIVIEN LEIGH WHILE ON HER VISIT TO SRI LANKA AT BRIEF GARDEN
I’d say detours are great especially when it offers unique experiences and a lingering feeling of coming back. I certainly plan to visit again, perhaps with a little picnic to soak in the spirit of the garden!