Monday, March 23, 2009



(All of the Artists of the drama towards to the place, where the drama held)

Thanthanath thaana thana thane }
Thana thaana thanthanath thaanaane}

Everybody will together from vary sides, with a sinthu walking by singing this song.

There after they will sing and dance below mentioned song, standing like a chained round.


We will dance with jumping and jumping
We all friends together here
Like beautiful flowers
We will dance with love.

After finishing the song, showing two scenes of in two houses and situating Father, Mother, and children

From a house,

A girl: Father, I go to play.

A boy: I too go to play. (Fro the same house)

A boy: [In the place where play] lets call sister Wawi and Thanu to play.

A girl: ya, ya, call.

A boy: Wawi………… [Same boy]
Hei Thanu…………………

Thanu: [From the next house] ya ……………..

A girl: Come to play, we have brought a kite.

Wawi & Thanu: [Get readying to come to the place of play]

Mother: They calls, these are about to go.

Wawi & Thanu: Mummy, mummy, shall we go to play. [Running to the place where playing]

Thanu: Oh! What a beauty, which did this kite.

A girl: I and younger brother did this.

Thanu: Okay, okay, you keep the thread, I take the kite. [Say to the girl and imitate
According to that]

Thanu: [Asking that] may I leave it, may I leave it, [After taking the kite to away]

A boy: Leave it, when blowing.

A girl: Okay, leave it, leave it.[ They will imitate like playing with a kite, at that time the singers will sing the below mentioned song, children will enjoy with dancing ]

Singers:- (Song)

Thananana thananana }
Thananaa thananaa } 02
Thananana thanananana }

A boy: Play the kite, play the kite.

Kite flies, Brother See, brother see,
See that flying up
Kite flies, sister see, sister see,
See that flying up
Brother come running, Come running, Come running,
Come play with kite.
Sister comes running, Come running, Come running,
Come play with kite.
(Children will stand in a round shape with moving)

A girl: Here, keep this thread. I will come back after drinking water.[ She will run ]

Singers: Thananana

A girl: Give me, give me the kite.[ She will ask after come back]

A boy: You played long time, didn’t you? I just play.

Singers: Thananana

Thanu: [To the boy who playing the kite] Lets give will you me, just I too will play. [
Playing after asking]

Singers: Thananana

Mother: [From the second house]
Hei, Thanu……………… how long you are playing? Come here, don’t play in the sunlight.

Thanu: Just now I got the kite; I will come after little play.

Mother: Come and go after having this.
[At that time]

Thanu: Mother calls, I will come back after listen to her.[he will hand over the kite to another one and go towards to home]

Singers: Thananana

Thanu: [Thanu after arriaval]
Playing kite is enough, we will play making dolls by clay.[ Imitating like binding the kite in the fence]

Children: let’s come to collect clay. [They will move to four sides by saying that]

Singers: Thanthanath thaananath thaananath thanthana}
Thanthanath thaanaane } 02

Lets make some hand crafts by the little hands} 02

Lets make more beautiful dolls } 02

We made dolls not only by fabric but also

By the weaving thread

Sister comes by run and walks

Brother comes by run and walks.
[Thanthana] 02

[When the song broadcast, one boy will imitate like a clay doll and another boy will imitate like clay doll makers. Finally they will enjoy with dancing around the doll with clapping.] There after,

A boy (Ajanthan): making doll is enough, let’s play another game.

A girl (Waksala): Then take the doll to our house.

Thanu: Is it? All are to your house.
[Then the children will imitate as keeping the doll into the Waksala’s house. Again they will reach the place where play.]

A girl (Waksala): Then what do we play?

3rd boy (Kokithan): Let’s play Kapady.

Waksala: Okay, okay, draw the line.

Children: [They will start to draw the line.]

Singers: Thaanaane thana thaanaane }
Thaana thanthanaththaanaane } 02

[Children will play Kapadi, in this play children will cover the boy who entered into the line.]

Singers: He is entering into the box,
Saying Kapadi, Kapadi.
Others caught him
In the box, after waiting.

A boy: Leave me, Leave me,
Leaved boy: Why did you ask me, to leave you? I would have touched the line.

A boy 5: It’s seemed to be killed you that are why I said you.

Mother 1: Oh, son come here, playing is enough.

Mother 2: Thanushan, Wawi, Ajanthan, Waksala, you too come.

Children: Play is enough, we will play tomorrow.
[Children go to houses.]

Scene 02:

[Children will appear in two houses in each house 3, they will imitate like doing varies works in the house environment.]

(Bathing, studying, eating (having), writing, doing house works etc.) Then,

Singers: Our joint living with mother, father, elder brother, elder sister,
Younger brother, younger sister, and relations is natural and fruitful for ever- 02

Fulfilled with love, this is more beautiful - 02

Strong, there are so many colures – 02

[Our joint living…………………] Singers will sing this song and move slowly.

At that time with the Parai sound one explainer will appear in the middle of the place where drama hold, from the out side.
(Parai is a traditional musical instrument. It’s like a drum’s music.)

Then the artists will stand on the attention position.

Explainer: How did change to artificial this colorful natural life?
How did demolish this life?

[He will move from there after asking these questions with the Parai sound.]

Scene 03.

[One Artist will appear from a house with deep cry.]

Father: Oh! Lady, (Colloquial word in Tamil)

Mother: Oh! God, don’t beat me………. don’t beat me………. every day you beats me after liquoring.

Children: Will cry with the mother.

Father: Are you a wife, why I married you, I can’t live with you. [He will get out from the house with this version.]

Daughter: Father, Father [She will attempt to catch father’s hand.]

Father: You also will be like your mother, I don’t care you go with your mother.
[Pull them aside with this version.]

This scene will go in attention and scene will start from another side.

[It will start to hear firing sounds it’s like a war, Then the persons of house No 02 will run every where, after they will be there with sad and cry alone. After little bit of time this scene also will go to attention. ]

Singers: Laala laala laala laalaa laala laalaa laalaalaa
Laala laala laala laalaa laala laalaa laalaalaa

Star flowers are every where in the sky
But there is no hand to pick and wear it.

Refuge children are every where in the earth
But there is no one to take care.

[Children will move slowly with singing this song. Again it will start to hear the firing sound then the children will hands up and noise that “rescue us, rescue us”. With this noise children will stand in a round shape with moving and situate a scene like living in the Caring centre. Now in this scene it will be shown that, children will function like a machine according to the bell sounds which related to the time table of Caring centre.]

Bell sound 1: The scene of every one get up and have a wash in two parts.

Bell sound 2: Coming and sitting quietly.

Bell sound 3: Doing the Meditation every one.

Bell sound 4: Having the breakfast every one.

Bell sound 5: Studying the subjects every one.

Bell sound 6: Going to the School in a line.
[Children will come one by one in a round shape and sit. Then a western music will hear. At that time some versions will hear such as go in the line, go neatly, don’t go out of the line, go without speak.]

Bell sound 7: Having a wash.

Bell sound 8: Doing Meditation.

Bell sound 9: Eating lunch.
Bell sound 10: Studying the subjects. [Now the supervisor will supervise the children who study with a cane. At that time he will notice a boy who sleeps. Then he will go near by him and punish him.]

Bell sound 11: Every one will go sleep.

Singers: Laala…………….. [Imitating like a lady walking with carrying two heavy parcels in two hands.] Then,

One person: Sister, sister, where do you go?

One person: It’s to you; Today there is a wedding at your house, isn’t it? Where do you go with parcels in hands?

The lady: She will move from there with this answer, yes, yes, there is a wedding. But there are lot of rice and curry are over, so I take all those to the Home children.


Voice 1: If give food to Home children, our passed away spirits will be peacefully. (Shanthy)

Voice 2: As well as grace also will be received.

Scene 04.

[With the Parai sound, (Parai is a traditional musical instrument. It’s like a drum’s music.) One person will appear in the middle.] The stood person,

Follower of religion 1: Our religion is a religion. Our religion culture and habits must be expanded all over the world. What can be done for that? [Sitting in the attention after this version.]

Follower of religion 2: Our religion is a religion. The oldest religion in this country. Our religion culture and habits goes down now days. It can’t be allowed like this. To whom and how train this habits.
[He will sit in the attention position after this version. At that time the Parai sound (Parai is a traditional musical instrument. It’s like a drum’s music.) Will be heard and stopped.

After stopped,
The two followers of religion in the same time.

Wow, the way has been founded that, let’s train our religion’s culture and habits to the refuge children. [With the Maththala sound (Maththalam is a traditional musical instrument in the cultural music.) two followers of religion will come around the children who are in attention position and sit in the attention position in one place.]

Voice 1: No non-vegetable.

Voice 2: Only vegetable.

Voice 3: No meat.

Voice 4: Only vegetable

[Those sounds will appear.]

Singers: Laala laala ……………………..

Explainer 2: [He will come to the middle of the stage with the movements and starts to speak.]

Helping to the helpless is good, Happy, Appreciable, but it can’t be accepted for ever that, wishing to control, insisting more rules, and feeding religion based thoughts in the name of helping. These are threat to fruitful human life. It is against to the healthy life.

Singers: There is a highest justice all over the world }
There is no lack for lectures }
Day and knight comes and goes } 02
There is no light to refuge children. }

[Star flowers…………Laala laala………]

Explainer 3: [He will come to the middle with the movements for the Parai and starts to speak.]

How to make it natural this life, which demolished and changed to artificial? How to change it colorful? [He will raise the question and move.]


Singers: Lets we ask a life without war in the house too.(02)
Lets we ask a life without war in the country too.(02)

Two boys: We need a father, who never beat to our mother and never leave us alone.

Singers: Lets we ask a………………….

Children: We need a fathers, who never tougher to our mothers and never leave us helpless.

Singers: Lets we ask a………………….

Children: This worst war must come to an end, which posses us to alone and helpless.

Singers: We want to live
in our house forever,
We want to live
in our house forever,
(Laala laala laala)
We want to live the nature’s gift
That, the fruitful life jointly with happy,
We want to live jointly with happy.
(Laala laala laala)
With the surrounding of mother, father,
Elder brother, elder sister,
Younger brother, Younger sister,
With the enjoy of relations,
With the growing of love.
(Laala laala laala)

This drama written and performed in the Street drama training camp among the children in Homes which was conducted in the Sarwodaya Training Centre of Saththurukondan, Batticaloa, since 17.04.2008 till 20.04.2008.

The workshop was coordinated and conducted by Thirdeye Local Knowledge and Skill Activists Group.

From "Veruddy" to "Virumpi"

From "Veruddy" to "Virumpi"
A creative transformative process with the Children

The Scarecrow is one of the most familiar figures of the rural and urban landscape of the Northeast of Sri Lanka. The ragged figure has been recorded in history for centuries and the Thamil classical literatures have evidences in plenty.

The image has proved irresistible to artists and writers from the past to present as well as to film makers since the dawn of the silent movie. Yet, despite all this fame, the origins and the development of the scarecrow have remained obscured in mystery.

Dictionary provides two meanings for the noun, scarecrow; (1) Any crude figure of a person set up to scare crows and other birds away from growing crops, (2) A person of ragged or disreputable appearance.

The Tamil word for scarecrow is ‘veruddy’ and it’s also known as ‘veruli’, and ‘konangi’. But these words connote satirical nature of scarecrow. It’s similar to buffoon, clown, or joker.

A poem of Sri Lankan Thamil poet Navaliyoor Somasundara Pulavar (1876-1953)

on scarecrow, with the title ‘Kaththari Thottatu Veruli’ [The scarecrow in the middle of Eggplant garden] is very popular one among the children of the past. ‘Kaththari Thoddaththu Maththiyile Ninru Kaaval purihinra Sevaka’ In translation it reads as, Servant, you stand guard in the middle Of the aubergine garden ‘veruddy’, the scarecrow is also called as ‘kaththari veruli’.

Making of "Veruddy" "The scarecrow" is the art of the people. It could be created and located in any place and in any time and with anything by very few people. It’s the power of making of ‘veruddy’. The purpose of creating "Veruddy" is to scare the birds in the paddy fields and in vegetable gardens. It's also hanged or displayed in front of building construction sites in order to protect from "Kannooru" the evil eye.

Making of ‘veruddy’ or ‘veruly’ is an easy but not an undemanding activity. It demands creativity. The images of ‘veruddy’ or ‘veruly’ simply catch the attention and make the people to gust with laughs and thoughts. Satirist and protest elements and particularly an activity in group is the undercurrent in the making of ‘veruddy’ or ‘veruly’. The talks and jokes; cackling and giggling in the process of making of scarecrows are the visible demonstrations of the undercurrent. The creative process and the final product reflect and represent the protest nature of the subjects against their masters and managers.

It’s also a kind of ritual where the distressed people in very small groups release their anguish subtly during the process of making and placing of ‘veruddy’ or ‘veruly’ or the process has provides a space for the release of pains and for expressions in a positive way.

But making of an Effigy followed by a procession and the burning of it in a public space is an active protest of a mass. Making of ‘veruddy’ or ‘veruly’ proofs that creativity and critical mind is not an asset of few specialist personalities.

It's an untapped or suppressed wealth of human beings. The positive aspects in making of ‘veruddy’ or ‘veruly’ had steered me to make it as a children activity.

Children are feeling free in the process of making of a ‘veruddy’ or ‘veruly’ comparing to work with paint or clay in order to make paintings or sculptures.

The collective and boundless feature of creative process in the making of ‘veruddy’ or ‘veruly’ was identified as powerful medium for the expressions for children.

Conventionally the creation of ‘veruddy’ is focused to create scare with the tinge of satire but the creative process with the children has transformed this as ’virumpi’ meaning “Lovable”. ‘virumpi’ an endearing creation with the tinge of satire.

It’s a simple and effective medium to work with children living in continuous displacements and under permanent war. Creative process of making ‘virumpi’ has provides a positive environment not only for children but also for their family members and community to relieve and refresh.

Another important feature of this program is the questioning of it’s gendered aspect of ‘veruddi’ as a ‘guard’ - man - who could stay fearless in a field through out day and night and in films portrayals too ‘he’ could protect innocent village girls. It’s rare to identify a woman or child ‘verruddi’ The creative transformative process with the children is also an exercise that helps them to re-visit their ‘gendered ideas’.

Making of "Virumpi" is a creative process with unending freedom of expressing inner feelings, humor, love and beauty, with discarded waste materials from the environment. The exhibitions, processions and performances with ‘virumpis’ are the unbound spaces for celebrations for children and adults.

It’s a world created solely by children for the whole community where there exists a culture of creating and controlling a world for children by adults. It’s an activity where children can steered into their own with a brief introduction and could create a positive space where adults also enjoy and enlightened.

Creative works of children which are based on the concept "Art of making ‘virumpi’ will simply expose this message to the people. It has the freedom to allow the hands and minds of children to go beyond not only the horizons of conventional creative spaces but also the living spaces of human beings.

The above creative activity was conceptualized and designed by S. Jeyasankar and creatively facilitated by S.Nirmalavasan with the participation of the affiliates of Third Eye Local Knowledge and Skill Activists group.

A scarecrow in the field/ so useful/ yet lifeless," thus reads a beautiful Zen haiku.

Sivagnanam Jeyasankar

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

“Re-discovering our Multicultural World through Community Theatre.”

The Department of Fine Arts, Faculty of Arts and Culture, Eastern University Sri Lanka had organized an “International Community Theater conference-Batticaloa 2003” in Swami Vipulananthar College of Music and Dance from 24th- 29th July 2003 titled “Re-discovering our Multicultural World through Community Theatre.”

The review article that appeared in an International Theatre Journal

On the second day of the conference we broke out of the auditorium and traveled to Seelamunai, the village where Jeyasankar was working with locals to develop Kooththu. Aside from papers, there were local performances and theatre workshops presented underneath palm trees in the village square. Not only did the village ‘sponsor’ the event by providing the venue (their square) and sumptuous meals, but they got involved with the discussions and workshops, and presented a stunning six hour Kooththu performance that went on early into the morning. For many delegates, the day was one of the most distinctive and memorable highlights of the conference Freed from the constraints of the lecture hall, it was possible to see the significance of the work in its context.”

(Michael Balfour, King Alfred’s College, Winchester, UK; Mick Mangan, De Montfort University, UK, (2004), Reviews: International Community Theatre Conference: Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, 24-29 july 2003, in Research in Drama Education, Volume:9, Number:1, Carfax Publishing, UK, p.117)

The above statement reveals the capacity of the people who are in the Participatory Action Research Program to contribute to the process of democratizing knowledge, decolonizing research methodologies and to build up an organic form of community theatre based on Kooththu.

The fourth session of the conference was held in Seelamunai village for the whole day under the title of “Applied Theatre and Community Theatre.” The facilitator had narrated a story titled “My story of a Participatory Action Research: Performance as research & Performers as evidence” and panel discussions were held in six groups with the participants of the process under the title, “Reformulation of Kooththu and experience of the participant artists.” Originally the time allocated for the panel discussion was twenty minutes but at the request of the conference participants the community made it to last one hour.

“The strength of feeling demonstrated by the speakers at the conference was matched by practitioners in the villages. S.Jeyasankar, an academic at the Eastern University of Sri Lanka and skilled Kooththu performer, is conducting a practice as research project in Seelamunai, a village near Batticaloa. Jeyasankar argued that conventional research methods confine knowledge to the academy, and fail to involve the local performers in the village. As a response, he has developed research methods which aim to dismantle this authoritarian approach to knowledge and actively to engage the subjects of the research-in this case the Kooththu performers-in the debates. The success of this innovative methodology was demonstrated most clearly in the village itself, where performers argued passionately about the integrity of the form. One performer summed up the significance of Kooththu as a ‘powerful weapon against mass media’.”

(Michael Balfour, King Alfred’s College, Winchester, UK; Mick Mangan, De Montfort University, UK, (2004), Reviews: International Community Theatre Conference: Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, 24-29 july 2003, in Research in Drama Education, Volume:9, Number:1, Carfax Publishing, UK, p.117)

The evening session commenced with the special address, followed by the performance and discussion of the Reformulated six hour long Vadamody Kooththu Titled “Simmasana Yuththam.” The title of the Kooththu was later changed to “Simmasana Por.” This happened on the request of Annaviyar Maththa Singam and discussions took place on it and finally the change was accepted by the community of the performers.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Creations from the Heart and Mind of Sekar!

Jewellery from the heart

By Jeevani Pereira

The first semblances of jewellery Shanmuganathan Chandrasekar remembers making were for his elder sister when they were hardly ten years old. “We were too poor to afford gold and I remember how she loved to have even a pair of earrings. I ended up making some out of leaf stems and then went onto make necklaces out of coconut leaves,” he said with a sad smile.

His voice betrayed emotion as he told us that in the early nineties his sister who was hardly into her teens and father had been killed during intense fighting due to the ethnic conflict, in their village Maddikaly in the Batticaloa District.

“This is how it has always been in Batticaloa Society. Gold jewellery is what is craved for by women and usually most of them cannot afford it. When they get married, they sell house and home to afford enough jewellery for status sake. That necessity often handicaps the beginning of a peaceful new life for a young married couple,” he remarked adding that among many things he wanted to change was the attitudes in people through his ‘fashion Jewellery.’

Most of all the creator of these simple yet exciting works told us that his jewellery collections was not only about earning money but mostly about sharing the art as well as much as changing the mindset of the society around him.

Going through the hand-made imaginative collection, a medley of sea-shell earrings and necklaces, handloom chokers and a beautiful pair of earrings made out of peacock feathers the woman in me was aroused beyond reasoning. I curbed, with the greatest difficulty, the desire to buy every single piece of jewellery that was on display. And Sekar, as he preferred to be addressed, smiled as he told me that it was the usual reception his work received.

Coming from an impoverished family whose situation was made worse after his father’s and sister’s deaths, Sekar said that he was determined not to give into the negativity that surrounded him. What gave him a new lease on life, he continued, was the ‘Third Eye’ which was Local Knowledge and Skill Activities Group founded by a local named S Jayasankar.

“Third Eye came about in 2002 to help young people especially from the villages of Batticaloa learn skills and acted as a forum for artistic expression,” he explained. “The Group has its own publications unit and workshops on painting and drama are done for young people besides other skills development programmes.” Thus, Sekar said he discovered himself taking part in Third Eye activities. It was through workshops that he realised he had a unique imagination and a knack for jewellery making.

“I suppose what started with my sister and what irked me about this obsession with gold and silver society has brought me where I am today,” he said with a smile adding that he started making small earrings and necklaces for friends who wanted to present them to their girlfriends in 2004. Then people I met from NGO’s, a lot of ladies saw my work and wanted me to make them small things,” Sekar continued. The demand for his jewellery began to grow in time and in 2007, he began to delve seriously into it after an opportunity to display his collection at the USAID Trade Fair that year.

“Batticaloa is known as the land of the Singing Fish, and some of what I create reflects that idea,” he said adding that his jewellery is very much environmentally inclined. “The handloom that I use for some of my pieces is from this area called Maruthamani which specializes in it in Batticaloa.”

Thus, discovering and improving himself each day, Sekar’s dream is to take his work to Colombo some day and maybe even abroad. “I want to further my knowledge of jewellery making at the Aesthetic Centre in India; but sadly I do not have enough resources for it but I know if I gain more experience, qualifications and add more value to it I will be able to take it beyond Batticaloa,” he said. “It’s not important how much I earn from it but I enjoy it as an art form, I want to learn more and be different in my skill; I want to make people see that there is Beauty and art in things beyond gold and silver,” he stressed.

For me, Sekar is a symbol of hope in this broken country and of the new generation dispelling the darkness created through years of disharmony and miscommunication. His hope and ideology despite all he has gone through, gave me hope that finally there is room to heal.

Dail Mirror
Saturday, March 14, 2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A.J. Canagaratna: Knowing an unsung-belatedly honoured critic

It is gratifying to note that the late A. J. Canagaratna, a literary critic from the North has been appreciated by at least a few people in the South and by one or two in Thamilnadu, India, particularly when Historians of Lankan English Literature do not appear to have even heard of him.

Somewhere last month the ICES (International Centre for Ethnic Studies), courtesy the chief librarian, P. Thambirajah, organised a meeting to introduce a book in English a Festschrift titled AJ: The Rooted Cosmopolitan. I wasn’t there but I heard about it. Chaired by Haig Karunaratne, the speakers included scholars in the calibre of Dr Wilfrid Jayasekera, Dr Sumathy Sivamohan, Seelan Kadirgamar and journalist Lynn Ockersz.

The 250 page book is neatly divided into two sections: Collection of Essays on A J Canagaratna and Essays and Reviews by A J Canagaratna. The book also includes photographs of the late AJCA Lanka born Canadian academic, Chelva Kanaganayagam, has edited this volume.

The Southern writers who have written so gloriously on AJC are Regi Siriwardena, S. Sivanayagam, Harsha Gunewardena, Navaliyoor S. Nadesan (his was a translation from Thamil), S. V. Rajadurai (a Marxist critic from Thamilnadu), Thamilavan (again from the neighbouring country), K. Sivathamby, M. A. Nuhman (his article originally written in Thamil is translated into English), Suresh Canagarajah (Lanka born academic in the U.S.), A. S. Panneerselvan (from Thamilnadu), M. Pushparajan (his article in Thamil is also translated into English), Nirmala Rajasingam (Lanka born Londoner), Rajan Philips and A. Sabaratnam.

I was not sure whether the late AJC was a Marxist in the classic sense but most of those who had paid tributes to him happened to be Marxists of one kind or the other.

What was surprising to me was that when I read the second part of the book, I found that AJC had written excellent essays and reviews in English mostly to a particular and not so well known publication called Third Eye that was published in the East.

He has written reviews of books by Lanka born Londoner A. Sivanandan, Lanka born Canadian Shyam Selvadurai, Lanka born Londoner Rohini Hensman, Regi Siriwardena, Tissa Abeysekera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Lanka born the late Guy Amirthanayagam. AJC also had reviewed some Thamil books in the English language. Those Thamil writers are Mu Ponnambalam, M. Pushparajan, S. Pathmanathan, Santhan, S. Jeyasankar’s edited book, K Sivathamby and S.Ratnajeevan H. Hoole. AJC also as reviewed a book by a Thamilnadu writer named S. Jeyamohan.

Apart from the above AJC wrote an Introduction to Neelan Tiruchelvam Commemorative Conference Papers and above all a Preface and Introduction to the two volumes of Selected Writings of Regi Siriwadena.

Some of his other articles include Tambi and poetry, London, Some Heretical Thoughts on the Proposed Educational Reforms, Naatsaar Vedu Vs Proscenium Stage, Annai itta Thee: Ome Impressions, Some Reflections, Kimathi’s "Trial" was No Ordeal, From Decaying Aristocrats to Lumpens: Cine Yatra - a festival of Sri Lankan Cinema, A One-Woman Show: Rani Moorthy’s pooja and The Man who said "NO".

The late A. J. Canagaratna was not only a writer and critic in English but also an author of a few books in Thamil. He was an English Honours graduate from the University of Peradeniya. He had worked for the Daily News as a journalist. He edited a Yaalpaanam Co-Operative journal. He had taught in schools in Yaalpaanam and in the East. He was an Instructor in English at the University of Yaalpaanam.

AJC has written the following books in Thamil: Maththu, Marxiavaathikalum Theshiya Ina Pirachchananium, Avasarakaalam ‘ 79 Part 1, Maerxiamun Ilakkiyamun : Sila Noakkuhal, Ellalan Samathiyum Varalaatu Mosadiyum, and Senkavala Thalaivar Jesunathar.

The Illustrated Weekly of India, Times of Ceylon, Ceylon Observer, Third Eye and The Little magazine have carried translations of Lankan Thamil short stories into English by AJC.

The following anthologies also include AJC’s translations of Lankan Thamil stories and poems: Lute Song and Lament, A Lankan Mosaic, Favourite fiction: Stories from South Asia-Part 1 and Part 2.

To know more about AJC and his writing one must read this book published by Tamiliyal, 27B High Street, Plaistow, London E13 OAd, U.K.


Monday, March 09, 2009


'Being a Tamil and Sri Lankan' by K Sivathamby: Review article written by AJ

'Being a Tamil and Sri Lankan' by K Sivathamby

Review article written by AJ

Review article written by AJ on 'Being a Tamil and Sri Lankan' by K Sivathamby, Aivakam, Colombo, 2005

I'd like to begin this review of Emeritus Professor K Sivathamby's book, perhaps the only senior Tamil academic living today, with the possible exception of Prof. Bertram Bastiampillai, with a personal anecdote relevant to the theme of this book. I entered the University of Ceylon (Peradeniya) in 1954. Having obtained the necessary grade in the First Examination I was permitted to read English in 1955. I had the dubious distinction of being the only male and the only Tamil in the batch of four reading English. This was one year before 1956, the year the Sinhala Only Act was presented in Parliament and passed with only the LSSP and CP voting against it. On the day the Bill was presented in Parliament, all the Tamil undergraduates in the various Halls of Residence decided to fast the whole day to protest against the injustice being meted out to our community. I too decided to fast in solidarity with my fellow-Tamils. By this time the debate about the Sinhala Only Act had already started and everyone had become conscious of his or her ethnic identity. This was inevitable, I suppose, in the emotionally charged atmosphere of the time. As a Tamil I felt it was incumbent on me to join my fellow-Tamils in the fast. This surprised my Sinhala friends who thought that as one reading English I would rise above tribal ideology. I was not impelled by any anti-Sinhalese sentiments or by tribal ideology. As far as it was possible under the circumstances prevailing at that time, mine was a rational decision to join in my community's protest against perceived discrimination and injustice.

This seemed to puzzle my Sinhalese friends in Ramanathan Hall where I was residing. They seemed to have assumed that as I was reading English I would rise above this 'tribalism' (in their perception). But my decision was a rational one (to the extent that rationality could be maintained in the highly charged emotional atmosphere prevailing at that time).

Like Prof. Sivathamby I too wanted - and want - to be both a Tamil and a Sri Lankan living on an equal footing with other citizens of Sri Lanka. And I certainly do not want to be treated as a second-class citizen: this is a feeling shared by many Tamils in Sri Lanka.

The articles collected here first appeared in the now defunct North-Eastern Herald. They are grouped here under six headings: Peace Process; Ethnic Divide –Its implications; Writers, Artistes and Intellectuals; Education; Media; Tamil Theatre, Tamil Music and Tamil Cinema; and Political Culture.

In this brief review I shall concentrate on the political pieces. This does not mean that the other pieces are not worth reading. Far from it; all the pieces are meaty and provide the reader with substantial food for thought. I concentrate on the political pieces because, in today's context, that is what most readers are interested in. Professor Sivathamby rightly points out that 'peace' means one thing to the Sinhalese and another to the Tamils. 'Largely speaking peace for the Sinhalese people is within the horizon when bodies of dead soldiers do not come back from the battle-fields of the north-east; when there are no sentry points which impinge on their right to free movement; when the coast of living comes down; when they can rest assured that there will not be bomb blasts in Colombo. For the first time since the war began, most of these have been achieved. It was clearly seen during the Vesak this year (2002). But in the case of the Tamils the situation is completely different. Most of us have lost our homes. We have to repair or build them anew. Our deeds and relevant documents are missing. Many of our public buildings, schools, temples and market squares are gone. Even if one wants to go back to resettle in his village there is very little to look forward to. In Keerimalai anyone who wants to take a bath has to be escorted by soldiers. What we understand by peace is first and foremost an environment in which this should not be repeated. Our people were affected by a complete shut-off of resources ranging from agriculture to education. Who will guarantee unimpeded access to such resources? How credible will that guarantee be? Peace without such guarantees would be meaningless.'

There is an important piece on Sri Lankan Tamil identity where he spells out the distinctiveness of the Sri Lankan Tamil identity. In the course of the piece he remarks pertinently 'If one traces the history of Tamil consciousness, one would see that their early efforts to assert and emphasise their identity was not in relation to other Sri Lankans so much as it was to the Tamils of Tamil Nadu.'

The Tamils have a general feeling that Sinhala Buddhist socieity is a 'therocracy'-ridden one and that [it] is this 'therocracy' which has paved the way for the ethnic conflict and is the biggest obstacle to its solution. This piece 'Sinhala-Buddhist understanding of Tamils: Communication Barriers' makes it clear that things are not that simple.

Referring to the 'community of Bhikkus', he says, 'The Sangha is a very important institution in any Buddhist society. And in the Sinhalese Buddhist society it is considered the moral guardian of the people. If the Tamil people want to know the actual position an ideal Bhikku occupies in that society, he or she should read the section on Asceticism/Renunciation in Thirukkural for, as we know, these concepts speak about a person within a society but completely devoid of worldly ambitions and pressures. An ideal Bhikku or for that matter a Jain monk draws his social power and eminence through renunciation. And this is something that is not met the in the Sanyasi concept of Hinduism. The Bhikku performs his role in society chiefly through the Dhamma Desena (lectures on the Buddha Dhamma). Through the Desenas he shapes public opinion at the village level. It is not left as that point. He oversees the application of his preaching in the day-to-day life of the people. And the more articulate a Bhikku is, the more respected he would be. Even today, audiotapes of leading Bhikkus are very much in demand. The Desena Tradition enables the Bhikku to inform, to persuade, to motivate to act according to the Eight-fold path (right way of thinking, of speaking, listening, etc). But this could mean that the Bhikku was able to persuade people on certain political lines. And being also the institution that legitimates royal authority in traditional society, it had virtually become either a consolidator of State authority or one who repudiates it. Thus the Buddhist monk is the axial factor of communication and culture Sinhala Buddhist Society. Therefore in Sri Lanka, the role of the Sangha became all important since the late 19th century in that its moral guardianship of society inevitably merged with the politicisation of the country, given the position of the Bhikku as the chief communicator in Sinhala society. As all scholars agree, resurgent Buddhism became a political force and was the motivating factor behind the rise of Sinhala nationalism. It is quite interesting to note here that in the resurgence of Buddhism in the late 10th [sic. 19th] and early 20th centuries, the Kandyan Sinhalese did not play as much an active role as the Karawas, Durawas and Salagamas of the low country. The Buddhist identity gave a social power, which they did not get from their traditional position in society. Thus their emphasis on Buddhism was more emphatic.' This passage and the ones that follow reveal his deep insight into Sinhala society and the role Buddhism played – and plays – in it. Some might object that Sivathamby has painted an idealised picture of the Bhikku. The answer is that he has pointed to an ideal type and in all religions (including the secular religion Marxism – a seeming contradiction in terms, an oxymoron; but Marx's fierce indictment of capitalist exploitation makes him sound like and Old Testament prophet. Indeed R H Tawney called Marx the last Schoolman) the ideal has always differed from the reality; in the flux of time the early idealistic fervour disappears and degeneration inevitably sets in. Other important political pieces are 'The Sinhala Percpetions of the South Indian Dravidian Movement'; the piece on Karuna titled 'Tamil Regionlism: Historical causes and Crocodile Tears' where he hits out at some Sinhala intellectuals who see in the Karuna split an opportunity to weaken the Tigers and wipe out Tamil Nationalism. I could go on and on, but I'm afraid I have already used more space than the Editor allotted to me. So I must stop here and make some concluding remarks. All the political articles are characterised by a reasonableness of tone. The author's chosen strategy is one of suasion. This doesn't mean that he pulls his punches or is mealy-mouthed. He is forthright without being needlessly offensive.

Is it possible in today's context to be both a Tamil and a Sri Lankan? I think it is, provided our leaders are statesmen enough to treat all communities as equal and guarantee this equality both in practice and constitutionally. Only time will tell whether the Sinhala political leadership can stop playing games of one-upmanship and indulging in political manoeuvring. It's high time they stop being fixated on a unitary state and think along the lines of a fully federal set-up to preserve the unity of this country.

In the meantime, I commend this book to the Sri Lankans of all communities as it will help to promote mutual understanding, which can lead to harmony. I have one cavil though. By writing in English, Sivathamby is preaching mostly to the converted or those who can be converted.

He should get this book translated into Sinhala and Tamil so that it reaches the readership which really matters, especially the youth, and in whose hands the future destiny of this country lies.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Shells and seeds for chains and earrings:

By Maura O’ Connor

In a corner of his elderly mother’s house on a small lane in Seelamunai, Batticaloa the jewellery designer Sanmuganathan Chandrasekaram has carved out a small studio space on the floor where he can do what makes him most happy.

Sanmuganathan Chandrasekaram

“I lost my father and one sister,” said the 27-year-old art lecturer at the Eastern University. “Every day I am alone here. When I make this work, I feel happy because it is art.”

Using natural materials he finds outside--sea shells, coconut fibre, and seeds—as well as hand -woven textiles, Chandrasekaram has been making earrings and necklaces in bold colours and shapes for over four years.

“Mainly I use environmentally friendly materials,” he said. “I want to appreciate growth and nature.”
Some necklaces feature large medallions of polished coconut shell with abstract designs carved into them, while others are made from bright red, green, or blue string tightly wound to create colourful pendants. His earrings are often made from dark seeds paired with delicate sea shells.

Chandrasekaram attended Eastern University as a student of painting, drama, and traditional Tamil dance. After the tsunami struck in 2004, he began making jewellery as a way to support his mother and his education. Both his father and sister died in the early 1990s from shelling due to the conflict between government forces and the LTTE, he said.

Chandrasekaram later became a member of the Moondravathukann (Third Eye) Local Knowledge and Skills Activist Group, an artist collective that works to promote multiculturalism.

The group conducts workshops, seminars, and informal discussions in villages and universities in the east, and publishes a newsletter called “Moondravathu Kann” to engender dialogue and artistic creativity among community members.

Chandrasekaram said he has struggled to establish connections with other designers or jewellery buyers outside of Batticaloa, but his work has begun to meet with some modest success within the community--his first solo exhibition will be held on February 28 to March 1 at Batticaloa Hindu College.
Nonetheless, he said his earthy designs are still a difficult sell to his neighbours.

“Our people like gold,” he said. “I think it has to do with globalization, the way people feel gold is so important. If someone wears this jewellery or ornaments, it’s not accepted in society. In the future that will change.”