Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A walk through the wall of 1983

                             By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai 

Memories should be kept alive

83 brings back haunting memories for the Tamils

Five in a series

As 23rd July 2013 marked the 30th anniversary of “Black July” artist and archeologist Jagath Weerasinghe recalled his memories of what has witnessed.  Jagath Weerasinghe is one among a handful of Sri Lankan artists who keep on questioning the socio political statements and status of the country.

Pogrom in July was an unexpected experience for me. The immediate reaction, when I witnessed the burning of shops belonging to Tamils, and killings and burning alive of Tamils, I thought they deserved it, and it was inevitable because our Sinhala army soldiers were killed. But, within a few moments, I have revisited my thoughts and said what I have already thought was wrong while being a good Sinhala Buddhist and a Marxist, and I should not be reacting like this. Black July has changed my life including what I have been thinking about myself and my society. What I have witnessed in 1983 has helped me to reshape my work, and revisit my thoughts”.

Jagath Weerasighe further says, “I arrived at the Pettah bus stand from Dambulla, when the pogrom started to erupt in the city of Colombo. I saw shops were set ablaze, and Tamils were being attacked, killed and burnt alive. There were seeds of racism within me, so I could be manipulated. I also felt the pride of being a person from the Sinhala majority for a moment. I wasn’t totally innocent, because these seeds of racism were within me for a moment at least, although I never took part in any act of violence, but I was a witness to the violence”.

Jagath Weerasighe says that most Sinhalese don’t want to talk about the pogrom seriously, and don’t want to discuss about it in detail, because they were not affected. But, he has decided to talk about it through art in order to reconcile with his evil thoughts which he had earlier in 1983. He reiterates that memories cannot be erased, and agrees that it is not easy to put the past behind.

First drawing in the series of five

 Second drawing in the series of five

 Third drawing in the series of five

Fourth drawing the series of five

Fifth drawing in the series of five

"Memories cannot be erased" says Jagath Weerasinghe
Jagath Weerasinghe could evolve and worked beyond

"What I have thought about myself and my society was wrong" Jagath Weerasinghe

It's not that easy to put the past behind

"What I have witnessed in July 1983 which has helped me to reshape my work and revisit my thoughts" Jagath Weerasinghe

Jagath Weerasighe has drawn series of political art

Jagath Weerasighe's recent drawings on the wall

"My mind that raced across the Galle Road was gripped by an unknown fear. A very intimate thought, an almost secret preoccupation, which had been kept from the generality of men for ages, as it seemed, appeared before me in an instant. The intense concentration that safeguarded my keenly private thought for ages shattered into smithereens. Hideous beastly figures emerged in the street in the distance. I saw them burning away at will, and sucking human flesh and blood. Those magnificent creative monuments of man’s age-old annals broke into bits within my being. With that only one residue remained in the recesses of my mind and that is Angst. The sole aim and hope of my inner being that has attained higher reaches for your sake, is to achieve victory over this Angst" ~ 1983 July Diary


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