Category Archives: art & allure bewitching

A Funeral and Its Professional Lamentation

Alagu Subramaniam,  courtesy of Rajiva Wijesinha, An Anthology of English Poetry and Prose, Godage & Bros, 2016, … see http://www.godage,comas Addendum to the item on professional mourners in Thuppahi, viz https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2017/03/03/professional-mourners-in-ceylon-and-southern-india/#more-24442. The Original Title of this Essay is “Professional Mourners”

 My grandmother died late at night on a Saturday while my sister, brother and I were fast asleep. We were wakened in the morning by the cries from grandmother’s house and the sound of drums. We dressed hurriedly and ran to her place. A large gathering was there, and the space between the boundary fence and the outer verandah was lined with people. We pushed our way through the crowd to the centre of the hut in search of our mother. We were feeling afraid because it was the first funeral we had attended.

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Professional Mourners in Ceylon and Southern India

Michael Roberts

 My interest in the topic of disappearances in Sri Lanka over the past decade and the allegations presented by one “Floyyd” in his comments on my central frontispiece named ”Sinhala Mind-Set” on the 25th November 2013 led me to supplement my posts and inquiries on that topic with a serious question I sent to several friends and personnel on  the 9th December 2016 and the week that followed.  Only a few responded to my inquiry in the course of that month. It is of some significance that most of those whose information is presented below are of the older generation and, like me, in the age-bracket seventies. For that reason they are calling upon their younger days in supplying ethnographic information that is of considerable value. For this reason I refer to “Ceylon” in my title because the data seems to refer to practices before the name change in 1972. However, this does not mean that the practitioners of mourning and the capacities for lamentation on cue have been totally buried.

oppari-22  Women in oppari lamentation in southern India — cf Balachandran’s note below oppariFrom https://www.flickr.com/photos/wellbredkannanclicks/14228110375

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Talaivar Pirapāharan embodied in Notebooks: One Mark of the LTTE’s Remarkable Propaganda Machinery

Michael Roberts

prabha-22 prabha-33 prabha-11

These three images adorn the cover of little notebooks, each 4 inches in height and 2.7 inches breadth, in my possession. They were purchased by me at Kilinochchi on 27th November 2004 when I visited the administrative capital of the state of Thamilīlam[1] during the ceasefire. The tale is recounted below as entry-point to a portrait of the LTTE’s remarkable innovations.

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The Indus Civilisation: A Great Civilisation, Yet Forgotten?

Andrew Robinson, courtesy of History Today Volume 65 Issue 12 December 2015…. http://www.historytoday.com/andrew-robinson/greatest-civilisation-ever-forgotten

Perhaps the most famous statement about the Indus civilisation is the opening paragraph of an article in the Illustrated London News published in 1924 by John Marshall, Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India: “Not often has it been given to archaeologists, as it was given to [Heinrich] Schliemann at Tiryns and Mycenae, or to [Aurel] Stein in the deserts of Turkestan, to light upon the remains of a long-forgotten civilisation. It looks, however, at this moment, as if we are on the threshold of such a discovery in the plains of the Indus.”

aa-indus-1 Steatite seal from the Indus valley, c.2500 BC. The script is still undeciphered

Subsequent Indus excavations certainly made an impression on the young Kenneth Clark. In Civilisation, Clark, while pondering the non-western beginnings of civilisation two-and-a-half millennia before the classical Greeks, observed in 1969:“Three or four times in history man has made a leap forward that would have been unthinkable under ordinary evolutionary conditions. One such time was about the year 3000 BC, when quite suddenly civilisation appeared, not only in Egypt and Mesopotamia but also in the Indus Valley; another was in the sixth century BC, when there was not only the miracle of Ionia and Greece … but also in India a spiritual enlightenment that has perhaps never been equalled.” Continue reading

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Tony Donaldson to introduce Sunil Santha and His Sinhala Music to Contemporary Lankans

Tony Donaldson will be presenting the inaugural Guru Devi Sunil Santha Memorial Lecture  at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka, on 14 December 2016. The talk is entitled “Sunil Santha: The Man who invented Sinhala Music for a Modern Age” …  Dr Ruvan Ekanayake will give a Sinhala translation of the lecture.

sunil-shantha sunilshantha

ABSTRACT OF TALK: Since the arrival of Sunil Santha on the music world in 1946, there has been a great deal written and talked about his music. People have listened to his songs. His songs have been sung in films, on the concert stage and television, or at parties, picnics and weddings. His music has been played by military bands, at state occasions or cricket matches. I too have listened to his music but somehow I have never penetrated to his core to really understand him, and I dare say that except for his close supporters and those who care about his music, nor has anyone else. I say this advisedly because much of what has been said and written about Sunil Santha and his music by academics and critics has been wrong, and so this gives me the chance to get it right this time. It is time to crack his DNA.

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Tilak Samarawickrema’s 50 years of Art

Piero Trionfera, the Italian architect reflects on Tilak Samarawickrema’s 50-year retrospective held last month, and speaks of being “Immersed in Tilak’s work” .. .. Sunday Times, 16 October 2016

When a wall becomes a work of art

I met Tilak about a year ago, at a celebration for Bawa, together with other Sri Lankan architects. I was perhaps the only foreign architect there.We started to chat and I rediscovered some of my roots: there is not a large age difference between us, and in the 70’s he lived in Rome, my city. It was inevitable that we would have similar memories of when Avant-Garde Italian design and architecture had reached a level of international standing, especially in Milan, a hot bed of intellectuals and emancipated industrialists, where Tilak had maintained close relations and interests.

So it was impossible for me not to be present at his 50-year retrospective as an artist, which he himself curated. It isn’t so much of a retrospective but a projection of a futuristic perspective.The choice of venue, the Lionel Wendt Art Gallery, implies a clear desire in Tilak to place himself in a modern, international niche, and this venue was absolutely perfect for his works and thoughts.

Right from the preview of the exhibition, the hall is full of interested and interesting people and I find myself immersed in his world. I am ready to admire his films, sculptures and drawings.

The welcome I receive at the entrance, the gallery, the people, the “Mythical Bird” opposite me, all bring up in me, a sensation of tranquil familiarity. Then, I reflect and think, but of course, I am at an international-style exhibition, a type I hadn’t seen for a while in Sri Lanka.To the left, an audience sits admiring and commenting on the animated films of timeless quality as well as a series of photos of the artist in his youth. I am also enthralled by the backgrounds of the photos (I am biased, sorry). Besides being a historic testimony of his formative years, they are insights into “my” Rome.

I wander around the exhibition, amongst intellectuals, people of all kinds, elegant and middle-aged as well as sporty youngsters, locals and westerners. It is wonderful that at an art exhibition you can meet all sorts of people with different backgrounds and this is a tangible indication that the exhibition was a success. Continue reading

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The Dambulla Cave Complex: Its UNESCO Heritage ‘Stamp’ under Question

suresha-pilapitiya Suresha Pilapitiya, in The Daily Mirror, 8 September 2016, where the title is “The Dambulla cave temple- the untold story”

Anyone who travels along the Kandy – Jaffna highway, may be able to view the picturesque scene of the Dambulla rock and the cave temple which are considered as iconic landmarks which adds prestige to the ancient city. It has stood there majestically for generations, depicting the Buddhist Culture, values and the beauty of Sri Lankan heritage.  The Dambulla Cave Temple is also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla, situated in the central part of the country. The site is spread tout in a vast area of 148 sq km to the east of Colombo and 72 sq km to the North of Kandy. It is the largest and the best preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka, apart from Aluviharaya in Matale.

aa-dambulla-333

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