Demons in the plural
Demons in Paradise is neither the only creative work that provides a critical introspection of the Tamil community, nor the only one that constructs the image of the perpetrators of violence as otherworldly ‘demons’. In 2014, Neervai Ponnaiyan, a veteran Sri Lankan Tamil writer, published a collection of short stories called Devils and Demons. The stories are creative fictions but based on situations and stories rooted in reality. It is critical of violence, as perpetrated by all sides, giving primacy to depicting the suffering caused to ordinary people. However, the fame of Ratnam’s work and recognition at the Cannes Film Festival, the immediacy and easy dissemination of the film medium, and perhaps the aesthetic and storytelling, will eclipse other similar works such as Ponnaiyan’s. This critical introspection is also sure to capture public attention and imagination for a while; there was consternation amongst the audience whether this would be co-opted or cherry-picked to suit convenient political narratives. It is important to note, then, that Ratnam’s movie treats demons in the plural: colonial legacies, ethnic violence, community violence and more. As Ratnam deals holistically with his own critical introspection through the movie, he challenges the audience to do the same.
Ratnam’s film is part of a wider trend in the artistic community towards using citizen memory and art to fill in the gaps in our history books and media sources. Radhika Hettiarachchi’s Herstories exhibit used stories from women across Sri Lanka affected by conflict-related violence, drawing upon commonalities in their shared experiences. Ruwanthie de Chickera’s Dear Children, Sincerely…, a play and series of monologues, is based on stories narrated by older generations about happenings in Sri Lanka from the 1930s onwards.
Perhaps the preoccupation of the arts sphere with citizen memory stems from a desire to fill in the silences that we grew up with. Where we do not have clear information or hard facts, we still seek stories. Nearly 70 years from 1948, official sources are still not able to look truthfully at the multiple violences of our post-independence years. Yet, our desire to know motivates us to listen to the stories of our elders, as Ratnam does in the film. But are we then, especially young people, to rely on the arts to fill in these silences? Must the arts shoulder the responsibility of providing to the Sri Lankan community what official sources still refuse to?
This is an excerpt from an article first published by Roar Life. See the full article here
On the dirt road from Wellawaya to Buttala, there stood two little shacks in a small expanse of garden. One would often spot an elderly gentleman there dressed in a sarong and simple baniyan. Peering out at the world from his characteristically oversized glasses, Fr. Mike, as he was referred to affectionately, seemed like any other villager from Buttala, an isolated farming village in the eastern district of Moneragala in Sri Lanka. Yet he was something quite out of the ordinary. Continue reading
(pix courtesy Malaka Premasiri)
On April 1, the crowd at the Lionel Wendt gallery kept buzzing, ‘What do you think it meant?’ They had been captivated by Mesh Academy of Dance’s Deconstruct the Embody but were struggling to make head or tail of it. Different ideas floated amongst people: some believed the dance had a storyline about escape, others connected emotionally with the frustrated, screaming bodies, others yet remained gobsmacked and chuckled to themselves about the shock of the performance.
Deconstruct the Embody was a multimedia performance combining the choregraphy of Umeshi Rajeendra with photography by Malaka Premasiri. As an abstract, experimental piece, it was a much-needed addition to Sri Lanka’s artistic landscape. It thoroughly disrupted the audience’s expectation of neat storylines or clear messages and demanded instead that you connect with the tensions of lighting and movement. Continue reading
Article published on YourCommonwealth.org
To quote its preamble, the Act aims to ‘to foster a culture of transparency and accountability’ and to ‘thereby promote a society in which the people of Sri Lanka would be able to more fully participate in public life’.
On going live, there was a frenzy of activity with some high profile cases. It is an exciting time for civic engagement in Sri Lanka, as the Right to Information (RTI) officially changes the government culture of secrecy into one of open government and accessibility to all. Continue reading
This article was published by Roar.lk. Full article here: http://roar.lk/features/of-dynasty-and-double-standards-women-leaders-in-south-asia/
While the U.S. has arguably shown the world that it would rather have a leader that grabs pussies than has one, in South Asia only the Maldives and Bhutan (which is a patrilineal monarchy in any case) have not had a female head of state. Political scientists have been fascinated by this exceptionalism of female leadership in Asia but much of the research says the same thing.
“… the easiest way for a woman to enter politics is to marry a politician”[i]
My first illustrated poem and first attempt at watercolour 🙂 Merry Capitalism everyone!
I used to have a nuanced view about the problems around employing foreign-educated graduates in Sri Lanka vs. encouraging locally-educated graduates. The protests by university student unions, medical students, and a host of other youth who had bought into the free education rainbow only to find no pot of golden jobs at the end – I sympathized with them and would advocate their position amongst acquaintances who complained about these ‘ever-protesting, ever-complaining, ungrateful students’. I advocated for the matching of local graduates with jobs straight out of university, even if it came at the cost of more difficult procedures for foreign graduates. Not anymore. Continue reading
I compiled this bibliography for The School of Oriental and African Studies where I was a Chevening Scholar completing my Masters in 2015-2016. My major was in the Politics of Culture and my research focused primarily on the nexus between arts, culture, and politics in 20th and 21st century Sri Lanka.
Contents are as follows:
- Politics and History: Civil War, Ethnicity, Insurgency
- Politics and Theatre
- Language, Politics, and Linguistic Nationalism
- Literary histories, overviews, and the politics of literature
- Culture, Arts and Violence
- Miscellaneous anthologies
Document here: sri-lanka-a-bibliography-compiled-by-annemari-de-silva
(This article was originally carried by the Daily Financial Times as a guest column.)
The hurt of love is a warm shroud
two inches from my skin
A layer that holds me gently
in ways loose cotton covers won’t.
A hot hurtness-anger that hovers
and cradles me to sleep
Comforting, like the slowly heated water
surrounding the unwitting frog.