Anti-hotel: A Folly in Five Tropes

1. ‘… backed by jungle and all that goes with it! Not a boutique or starred emporium. If expecting a regular hotel experience, best look elsewhere.’ – Helga’s Folly [1]


In the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka, two mildly voyeuristic loci of touristic renown persist. One is the Temple of the Tooth, with the reliquary dente ensconced beside the central lake. The other is Helga’s Folly, unrelentingly promoted as an anomalous Wunderkammer up in the hills (must visit, if not stay). The Folly is ever bracketed: between neat synopses, the token oddity of dog-eared travel guides, splayed over hypersaturated magazine spreads, elsewhere the subject of frothy and undulous blogger interviews. None of these off-the-beaten-path narratives orbit too closely around the residence’s aesthetic sedimentation, a perplexing miasma of paintings, invited defacements, photographs and ephemeralia en masse. This is likely because the art withdraws into marginal caricature, cowed beneath a grand spectacle of eccentric archetypes … a crescendo peaking in the owner herself, Madam Helga de Silva Blow Perera.

[1] ‘Amenities and Gallery. Helga’s Folly – A Sri Lankan Home’,; accessed 7 July 2019.



Erica Camille
Helga's Folly, 2014
Courtesy of Erica Camille Courtesy of the artist and the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra

Jessica Laraine Williams is a researcher and PhD candidate at the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne University. She is undertaking her doctoral research into aesthetic conditions of networks, modulated through a transdisciplinary perspective. In parallel, she works with other academics to examine the intersections between VR art and health outcomes. Jess continues to practice in her allied health profession as an aged care physiotherapist.