Wow! Having your face painted?
It’s cricket fever again all over the country with the ICC World Cup
coming alive. Watching television without missing a single moment or
peering through local newspapers, many hope that their picture will be
published for the world to see.
Whether it’s on media or live on the pitch, it’s not just the match
people watch but scores of cricket fans who have painted their faces and
dressed up with the most vibrant of their country team’s colours to
cheer their favourite cricketers.
Never before has Sri Lanka seen so many fans go to extremes to paint
their faces, wear costumes and hang soft toys on their heads than at the
ICC cricket matches displaying the latest cheerleading trends.
It’s evident to see that fans go to a cricket match to feel the
atmosphere and be a part of an experience with the papare bands in the
background, baila music screaming from mobile phones and witnessing the
painted faces in the stands.
Face-painter artist Arshadh Iqbal told the Sunday Observer that even
he didn’t realise that he’d get so many enthusiasts to get their faces
painted. “It’s cool that everyone wants to get their faces painted and I
can’t believe that I get lots of middle-aged people who queue,” he said.
Moreover, he said that there were lots of foreigners who were so
impressed with his painting that they wanted their whole bodies painted.
According to experts, face painting has been used from historical
times, used for hunting, tribal, religious and military reasons such as
camouflage and authority.
Recent archaeological research reveals that even Neanderthals had the
ability to do some kind of face paintings. Although it died out in
Western culture after the fall of the French aristocracy, face painting
re-entered the popular culture during the hippie movement of the late
1960s, when it was common for young women to decorate their cheeks with
flowers or peace symbols at anti-war demonstrations.
“As an artist, we have crazy and over-the-top ideas when we paint our
subjects' faces so we really think out of the box when it comes to art.
For the cricket matches, I got to paint plenty of the country’s flags,
the ICC logo, the Sri Lanka Lion and even one of Stumpy, the mascot,” he
said. Arshadh said that his most memorable time was the Pakistan-Sri
Lanka match where most of his family and friends and even girls who used
to be shy to get their faces painted before, started coming to him to
get their team’s colours on their faces.
“I was shocked at how conservative girls were now painting their
faces and getting into the spirit of things. It changed their
perceptions and I was also asked to put both countries’ flag on the
faces of many fans,” he said.
Arshadh realised that it wasn’t just fans cheering their favourite
teams but unity in diversity and when fans painted themselves with
colours of two countries, it revealed respect and admiration to both
“I never knew that face painting would be a must-have fashion because
you see friends bonding over who has the better painting and who does
not. So I try to make people as beautiful as possible but in their own
unique style,” he said.
“They come up to me and ask, ‘Can you please do a good design on my
face otherwise I won’t appear on television’ which goes to show how
serious these fans are about grabbing attention.”
Talking about the long queue at his stall to get their faces painted,
he said, “The secret to this is that I tend to do my paintings in
double-quick time because of the lack of time. Whether it’s between
lunch breaks or tea time for the cricketers, it’s overtime for me as I
have to make sure every fan who wants his/her face painted looks their
best!” According to a Sri Lankan psychiatrist, although it is a fun
thing with attractive symbols, face painting is also something that
relate to the greater society.
She said, “While most think face painting is a crazy trend done by
mad people, this is not true. We paint our faces to ‘fit in’ and to bond
with others who are also part of the trend.”
The doctor said that while we cheer our favourite team, we are making
a signature statement to show our comradeship and our respect to our
country, something like a patriotic gesture.
We asked a few fans why they wanted their faces painted and why it
was popular among everybody in any age-group and how it’s very popular.
Chinthana (30) said, “I think it’s good that many people realise that
it’s not just about cheering your team but feeling the total experience
when it comes to going to a cricket match.
In Sri Lanka, people are now becoming not just fashionable and
attractive but also very innovative when it comes to facial art.”
Work executive Dinesh said, “As a cricket fan, instead of holding
placards of ‘4s’ and ‘6s’ all the time, it’s relaxing to sit there and
have a face painting to express your solidarity to your team and to the
game. For me, face painting can be difficult because you have to keep it
for the entire duration of the match but it serves a good purpose.”
Damayanthi (23) said, “Older people wouldn’t have had such fads when
they were growing up so they paint their faces to make them look and
feel younger. Of course, I’m not sure if it’s a way of hiding their
wrinkles!” Harshini (16) said, “I love the ICC World Cup mascot Stumpy
this time because he’s so adorable, I even have him on my mobile phone
Brainstormed by Christoph Kaul, Stumpy is a light-blue elephant,
showing that the elephant is a tribute to the ICC’s host nations, Sri
Lanka, India and Bangladesh. We can all see him when the umpires toss a
coin to see which team gets to decide who bats or bowls first.
According to Christoph, “Stumpy evolved in five stages. He is
intelligent, efficient and lovable, a combination that took considerable
time to mastermind. Even his trunk is different from a traditional
elephant’s trunk and is modelled on the Indian elephant God, Ganesh.”
With his appearance in Sri Lanka, Stumpy needs a helping hand because
he’s not very popular here. So the next time you see him, please give
him a great elephant hug!