BARBARA SANSONI LEWCOCK
Barbara Sansoni, the remarkable founder and designer of Barefoot Sri Lanka, passed away peacefully on the 23rd of April - just a day after spending her 94th birthday with friends and family. She changed the lives of Sri Lankans with her riots of vibrant colour and inspired many globally.
Few visitors to Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) leave this beautiful Indian Ocean island nation without having purchased a piece of handloom cotton designed by Barbara Sansoni. Her textiles, paintings and poetry are internationally known, having been exhibited in, the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and the United States.
Barbara Sansoni’s talents and accomplishments are highly developed and widely admired. So it is especially interesting to discover that she originally came to weaving almost fortuitously as part of an endeavour to teach a skill or trade to disadvantaged girls in Sri Lanka so they would have a brighter future. Her life was transformed by this venture and she learned as much as the girls. “The loom has been my guru,” she says, “teaching me things about colour and even about life that I could have learned in no other way.”
Read on for some poems written by Barbara:
Are you a true islander?
Do you keep your cool?
On the hottest airless day
Do you drench your view
With Mahaweli Waters,
Udarata , Blue Lagoon,
Serendib and Water Hyacinth?
Pearl of the East!
Amethyst and Turquoise,
On emerald Isle of
Gem Pits and Gem Mine.
Which White is White?
Is Chalk White
Is Hunu on walls.
Wash it with blue
Till it Blinds.
Image: The Jaffna Kitchen, watercolour by Barbara Sansoni
Barbara Sansoni Lewcock 22nd April 1928 - 23rd April 2022
I will always remember Barefoot from my brief visits to Colombo – wonderful inspiration for a visiting artist and writer in the days when I accompanied my husband aboard a merchant cargo vessel to explore the cultures we berthed in. These unaccompanied excursions were enriched by encounters with the productive engagement of craft and process.
I visited her shop and have some treasured toys and two tops bought whilst I was there. We made a special request to visit on a tour of Sri Lanka and glad we did.
So sad to hear of her passing. Visiting Barefoot shops were highlights of my holiday in Sri Lanka. Amazingly colourful and very atmospheric.
What a great life. I treasure the Sansoni wall hanging, bag and stuffed animals I have had for years, bought in the UK.