This new mural symbolizes the strength and success of women near and far
By Ellison Beaver | Photography courtesy Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture
In mid-March, Durham muralist Mayanthi Jayawardena completed an eye-catching mural on the side of Lantern on West Franklin Street. The mural, titled “Lotus Rising – An Ode to Women,” took her about a week to complete and was dedicated to celebrating Women’s History Month.
Mayanthi has always been an artist with a focus on digital art and photography but got into mural painting during the pandemic. When friends and family first asked her if she would ever consider painting on bigger walls, she wasn’t interested, but then things changed. “I remember just feeling inspired one day, and I reached out to a restaurant that said they would love to have a mural,” Mayanthi says. “It just kind of started from there – just asking for what I wanted, and people were interested.” You can find Mayanthi’s murals all over Chapel Hill at Prologue Used & Rare Books, Northside Elementary School, Al’s Burger Shack and more.
Mayanthi found the perfect place for her most recent mural at Lantern after being connected to owner Andrea Reusing by Chapel Hill Public Library director Susan Brown. Mayanthi presented her design, and the process began. “Andrea had ideas of her own, so we meshed our ideas together,” Mayanthi says. “We wanted it to be something celebrating women and showing unity and strength.” Many components of the mural are personal to Mayanthi’s own roots as a Sri Lankan American. She explains the significance of lotus flowers and their ability to grow in mud and swamps yet exist as one of the most beautiful flowers; they symbolize the strength and resilience of women everywhere. Mayanthi also incorporated bits of gold into her work, which to her symbolize prosperity, illumination, harmony and love. “We’re hoping this is a place where people can come and just feel empowered and feel that sense of positivity,” she says.
The Chapel Hill community supported Mayanthi as she completed this mural. She says her favorite part of the project was all the new people she met during the process and passersby who often stopped to chat and observe her hard at work. “I think it was a testament to why it’s so important and so special that the mural landed here in Chapel Hill,” Mayanthi says. “I felt supported, encouraged and celebrated as an artist.” Mayanthi’s partners in the project were the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture and the Orange County Arts Commission.
The mural serves as a walkway to Lantern’s future Garden Spot which will highlight and celebrate diverse chefs from the area working on their startups, slated to open later this spring.