Birth of Modern Ceylon Toursim

The Land of
Song & Dance

Hey there, fellow travel enthusiasts! Prepare to embark on a nostalgic journey through the captivating world of Ceylonese travel through posters. In this edition, not only do we unveil the enchanting story behind C. K. L. Samarasinha’s iconic ‘Land of Song And Dance,’ but we also open the treasure chest to explore the backstories of several other vintage posters that once beckoned travelers to the heart of Sri Lanka’s beauty. So, fasten your seatbelts as we navigate through the Land of Serendipity’s artistic marvels!

An old, hand drawn map of Sri Lanka highlighting the activities and tours that can be done around the country

Ceylon’s Poster Extravaganza

Back in 1937, the Ceylon Tourist Bureau kickstarted the island’s travel dreams. Despite World War II throwing a curveball by closing the curtains in 1939, the post-independence era saw the resurrection of these dreams with the rebirth of the Ceylon Tourist Board. They didn’t stop at revival; a poster competition was organized to reignite the flames of tourism in 1948, where the iconic ‘Land of Song And Dance’ was born.

An old, hand drawn map of Sri Lanka highlighting the activities and tours that can be done around the country
Pleasure map of Ceylon
0. Poster

The Maestro’s Triumphs

Land of Song And Dance

C. K. L. Samarasinha’s masterpiece, the ‘Land of Song And Dance,’ won the Grand Prize in the 1948 competition. This vibrant tapestry captures the rhythmic allure of Ceylon, featuring captivating dancers against a backdrop of scenic beauty. It’s not just a poster; it’s an invitation to relive the charm of vintage Ceylon, adorned with hues that make it an iconic representation of the island’s cultural richness and natural wonders.

Mount Lavinia Beach

A Symphony of Liberation

But the magic doesn’t stop there. C. K. L. Samarasinha’s creative prowess also clinched the 2nd place award for his poster of Mount Lavinia Beach in 1948. This stunning depiction paints a picture of a hope-filled celebration of hedonism, reminiscent of California’s free-spirited ethos. The poster captures the post-WWII feeling of freedom and gender equality, mirroring the sense of liberation from colonial rule as the British bid farewell to Ceylon forever in that same year.

1. See Ceylon

‘See Ceylon’ by

G. S. Fernando

Adding another brushstroke to the canvas, G. S. Fernando, one of Ceylon’s foremost watercolorists, showcased his artistic prowess with the poster “See Ceylon.” Depicting the serene beauty of the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, this masterpiece earned G. S. Fernando the Third Prize in the 1948 poster competition. The poster not only highlights the cultural treasures of Kandy but also stands as a testament to Fernando’s skill in capturing the essence of Ceylon’s attractions through his watercolor artistry.

Vintage Treasures on Display

Step into the poster gallery, where each vintage treasure tells tales of Ceylon’s wonders. These postcards, once the face of tourism, now beckon modern explorers to rediscover the timeless beauty of Sri Lanka.

Home of Good Tea

A Victorian Reverie

In 1877, the legacy of Ceylon’s exceptional tea began, and since then, it has been a symbol of quality worldwide. Post-independence, the Government of Ceylon established the Ceylon Tea Propaganda Board to promote its tea globally, choosing Dutch artist Victor J. Trip to design the logo, posters, and promotional material. Among Trip’s creations, the “Home of Good Tea” poster emerged as an iconic representation of Ceylon’s commitment to producing the finest tea. With Victorian-era charm, this vintage artwork not only serves as a visual ambassador for Ceylon tea but also encapsulates the island’s rich tea heritage—a delightful blend of history, art, and the aromatic allure of its tea plantations.

A poster designed by a British designer in order to promote Ceylon Tea and Tourism
A poster of 2 people riding a wooden ferry in a clam looking lake, and a temple can be seen at a distant

G. F. Fernando’s 1938 Masterpiece

Tranquil Waters

In 1938, the renowned watercolorist G. F. Fernando crafted another timeless gem for a Government Tourist Bureau competition, offering a captivating snapshot of Ceylon’s allure. This iconic poster features a wooden ferry gracefully navigating a serene lake, carrying two passengers against the backdrop of a distant temple on the horizon. Beyond its artistic brilliance, Fernando’s masterpiece beckons viewers to immerse themselves in the tranquil beauty of Ceylon, a scene frozen in time.

A poster of a man adorned in traditional attire riding a beautifully decorated elephant

Wings of Elegance

Air Ceylon's Sapphire Service

Established in 1947 as the pride of the skies, Air Ceylon, the national airline of the country, soared with an extensive network connecting destinations from London to Sydney. In the golden aviation era, circa 1958, Dutch artist Mart Kempers crafted an iconic poster that seamlessly blended artistry and travel allure. Centered around a stylized elephant, the poster unfolds a scene of elegance. This vintage masterpiece not only captures the spirit of Air Ceylon’s golden age but also serves as a visual time capsule, encapsulating the bygone era of sophisticated air travel to the vibrant island of Ceylon.

A poster of a man adorned in traditional attire riding a beautifully decorated elephant
It's a poster of a rural village, where a woman is carrying something heavy. And a man is riding a bullock cart and there is a hay house in the background. And on the sky, there is a airplane. The text here says 'Fly to Ceylon by B.O.A.C'.

Wings Over Villages

B.O.A.C's Ceylon Odyssey

Crafted in the year of 1955, this vintage poster encapsulates the essence of a rural Ceylonese village as a woman carries a heavy load, a man gracefully maneuvers a bullock cart, and a traditional hay house stands against the horizon. Yet, amidst the idyllic scene, an unexpected marvel graces the sky—a soaring airplane symbolizing the advent of global travel. The text proudly declares, “Fly to Ceylon by B.O.A.C,” inviting travelers on a journey to the heart of Ceylon’s charm. In the post-WWII era, British Overseas Airways Corporation (B.O.A.C) emerged as a pioneer, connecting former colonies in Asia and Australasia. Ceylon, with its allure and strategic location, became a favored destination and transit hub, ushering in a new era of exploration and discovery.

It's a poster of ruins of a ancient kingdom in Anuradhapura, with a temple in the background with a red sky. The text reads 'Ruins at Anuradhapura Government railways Express train services Restaurant and sleeping cars'

Back to the beginnings

Anuradhapura Railways

Born in an era when the Ceylon Government Railway system first emerged, this artwork reflects the railway’s pivotal role in opening up remote outposts, making them accessible to adventurous souls. The extensive railway network became the lifeline for plantations, facilitating the smooth transportation of goods to Colombo, the capital, and main port. Painted against a backdrop of a temple and a crimson sky, the poster is a masterpiece by David Paynter, one of Ceylon’s foremost artists.

It's a poster of ruins of a ancient kingdom in Anuradhapura, with a temple in the background with a red sky. The text reads 'Ruins at Anuradhapura Government railways Express train services Restaurant and sleeping cars'

Alright, dream-weavers, we’re not just dream-weavers; we’re your passport to the past and present. With our curated tours, cozy accommodations, and seamless travel, we assure you that your next Sri Lanka tour will be etched in your memory. Come, let’s peel back the layers of history, culture, and nature in the gem of the Indian Ocean. Allow the rhythm and charm of Sri Lanka to enchant your soul – hop aboard for an unforgettable travel experience! And stay tuned as we unravel more tales behind these vintage posters, each a unique piece of Ceylon’s artistic legacy.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to I Love Ceylon, where these stunning vintage posters were discovered. Their extensive collection and passion for preserving Ceylon’s artistic heritage have allowed us to share these timeless masterpieces with you. To explore more captivating posters and delve deeper into the rich history of Ceylon’s artistry, visit I Love Ceylon

"Traveling leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller"

Ibn Battuta