The warrior queen

Helga de Silva talks about growing up in the family home that would eventually become the sumptuous ”Helga’s Folly“. She reflects on why people are drawn to her ‘anti-hotel’, a canvas for her and her guests’ creativity. Photography by Kannan Arunasalam. Additional photography by Alefiya Akbarally.


Join the discussion: 11 comments

  • Kannan Arunasalam says:

    Kumar served us tea while we waited for Helga to come down to talk to us. When she came down the stairs, it was spectacular. I have to be honest, I was a little intimidated. Helga mentioned that an astrologer had once told her that in a past life she had been a warrior queen. I believed it too.

    She said she was “a little all over the place” after a night entertaining friends, but no one looks this immaculate, this early, after a late night.

    Designed by her aunt, her sari had the tree of life stitched into it. And what a life Helga has had. Creativity flows in this family – her mother had been an artist – and Helga’s artistry seemed to have no limits. It was all around me, in the elegant way she dressed, the glasses we drank from and even on the ceilings.

    Her “anti hotel” was her childhood home and now home to the guests who visited. My nervousness faded and I quickly relaxed into our interview. She had a way of talking that made you feel at ease, at home. Reflective and genuine, she was open about a life that has been blessed. But there had been terrible blows too. She lost both a husband and a daughter-in-law to suicide. I understood now why so many guests going through unhappy times opened up to Helga, before she sends them back into the world outside Helga’s Folly. She was not like any Sri Lankan I had met before.

  • cezarneaga (Cezar Neaga) says:

    an incredible woman. an incredible life story. she seems taken out of Garcia Marquez story

  • Helga De Silva Blow Perera says:

    The sari, a mix of silk yarn and fine cotton, was designed by my aunt Minnette de Silva, and was handwoven in the hills of Kandy, incorporating the ‘Tree of Life’, somewhat appropriate!! Complete Kandy product, including the silk worms, I was told! Thank you. Being of a ‘certain age’ is good! All the very best and looking forward to the next ‘read’!

    • Kannan Arunasalam says:

      I was really happy to read your comments, Helga. On this and on the other characters. Thank you for the encouraging words.

      • Helga De Silva Blow Perera says:

        Thank me not.
        I think this is a great project…So many interesting, brave people out there, who have done so much in their lives, and who more often than not pass by, their ‘songs’ unsung.
        So many, many stories yet to tell.
        Your audience awaits!
        All the VERY best.

  • Nancy Fernando says:

    I’d love to be Helga’s house guest, if she will have me. She is my type of lady. Yes, Helga. “Many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste it’s sweetness on the desert air”.

    This is indeed a great project.

  • Susanah Wilson says:

    The Tree of Life sari – did the silk come from Nazha’s silk worms at Kande Walawa? I know that in the 60’s she had over 500 women working for her, weaving the silk from her silk worms into her wonderful artworks for which she became famous.

    Lovely to read such wonderful comments about Helga – yes, she is very much a stylish icon of our time.

    • Helga De Silva Blow Perera says:

      The sari was woven in the late 40’s, on my aunt Minnette De Silva’s looms in Kandy. Sadly, not sure where the silk came from. Nazha did some spectacular ‘artwork’ here in Kandy. Thank you for all compliments, although not sure about the “icon” bit! Thank you nevertheless! Best, Helga.


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