"Walking down from the Dutch Reformed Church in Galle Fort, while the moon is on its ascent, its incandescent light catching the colonial rooftops and dancing past the aged colonnades overlooking the harbor, one can feel the heat of the warm red terracotta tiles sitting on wooden beams protecting the shaded coral and shell historic walls below. A gallery storefront glows, drawing you into a vintage world of humor, danger and romance. A couple leaning over a balustrade seem as real as the owners of this fascinating enclave, who sit enigmatically surrounded by nostalgia. One’s eyes will be captivated by a handsome bride and groom basking in the sartorial grace of a bygone era, gazing with dreamy curiosity at a shadowy paradise, a magical place they are both bewitched by and yet know they must leave.
Flashback to the 1930s twilight in the Dominion of Ceylon, a crescent-shaped moon bathes the vast dark Indian Ocean in a silvery light. The platinum-blonde bride in the mermaid-like, pearl-coloured wedding gown is the picture of imperial elegance as she leans against the open railings of the upper deck of the cruise ship that is departing Galle Harbour. She gazes with detached curiosity, extra-long Bakelite cigarette holder in hand, across the wide-open bay christened Boa Vista by her Portuguese predecessors, towards Galle Fort; its silhouette unmistakable with its high Dutch ramparts, its lighthouse, mosque and palm trees. The bride’s tall, dark and tuxedo-clad groom stands by her, his hands stretched out to either side behind him on the railings of the deck. His striking profile cuts into the night sky as he too looks reflectively over his shoulder, bidding a penetrating farewell to the island. The last embers of a sunset on the western horizon show that the night is still young. The story of these lovers has just begun. At their feet, the instructions inscribed onto the lithograph in italicized French are clear:
“Restez au Fort Bazaar et immergez-vous dans l’heritage du Fort De Galle” [In English: “Stay at Fort Bazaar and emerge yourselves in the heritage of Galle Fort.”]
Goodnight Ceylon is a showstopper. The image encapsulates the seductive romance of Ceylon and of Galle Fort specifically, like none before it. The poster is the latest in a series of Ceylon-centric art directed by Sri Lanka-long-time-resident British photographer Philip James Baber, Creative Director of Stick No Bills® and the world’s greatest living retro-style poster illustrator, Mads Berg. Mads has never set foot in Sri Lanka. Yet, inspired and meticulously guided by Philip, the Copenhagen-based poster artist has, with seeming effortlessness, produced no less than five best selling images for Stick No Bills® since he first won their open-ended No Bill Piece Prize design contest and began producing posters exclusively for them in Sri Lanka. The pair has devised such a winning creative formula that they have since embarked on designing a series of Spanish retro travel posters together that will be released later this year.
Stick No Bills® is donating proceeds from all sales of Goodnight Ceylon as posters and postcards to the Galle Heritage Foundation. In doing so, the aim of the Galle-Fort founded poster enterprise is to help fund the Ministry of National Heritage-born Foundation’s vital “mission to conserve Galle Fort as a historic city centre of the utmost archaeological importance and to develop it to be a tourist centre of excellence.”
“Our customers are generally erudite European, Asian, Antipodean or diaspora-returnee travellers,” says Stick No Bills® Co-Founder/Director Meg Gage Baber. “They are the opposite of package-holiday mass-market tourists. They arrive in our gallery enchanted by the old-colonial charm of Galle Fort and dreaming of the golden, pre-commercial aviation era of travel to Ceylon. So, we hope it will give them an enormous sense of wellbeing to know that by investing in this image they are also investing in the Galle Heritage Foundation’s efforts to preserve and protect Galle Fort.”
Galle Heritage Foundation Chairman Channa Daswatte states that the British Gallerists “kind offer to make a regular donation to the work of the Galle Heritage Foundation has been accepted by the management committee and we convey our gratitude for this gesture.”
Teardrop Hotels part funded the creation of the poster in return for it branding their newly opened luxury boutique hotel, Fort Bazaar. The 18 bedroom Marrakech meets contemporary style hotel is located right at the heart of Galle Fort, just a few steps up Church Street from the flagship gallery of Stick No Bills®. Teardrop Hotels’ Managing Director Henry Fitch says “we’re delighted to feature in Stick No Bills®’ latest artwork and even more thrilled to know that the proceeds from its sale are going towards the Galle Heritage Foundation’s many important projects to help conserve Galle Fort. The poster has found a home on the walls of the Fort Bazaar and we hope will be enjoyed by our guests and those who purchase the artwork for such a good cause.”
In producing Goodnight Ceylon, Stick No Bills® has created a Great Gatsby-esque marketing tool for the Galle Heritage Foundation, Fort Bazaar, Galle Fort and for the country no less. For me, looking at this stunning image I wonder how much of this is not a re-birth of the dynamic owners themselves and the romance between them that has created so many stunning new images of Sri Lanka in its historic context over the last six years, a place they both clearly love in mind, body and spirit.
Philip explains, while seated in his design studio located upstairs above the gallery on Church Street, working on his latest visual masterpiece, “We launched this poster one month ago and it has instantly become our most sought-after design. So just think; within one year, thousands of prints of this image will bedeck the walls of homes, restaurants, bars and hotels on all five continents, thereby championing Galle Fort as a world-leading cultural tourism destination, drawing independent travellers here from all over the planet. For my wife and I, that’s always been at the heart of our endeavours: to help promote sustainable and intelligent tourism in post-war Sri Lanka.”"