Photograph courtesy of Anoma Wijewardene
On this day, one year ago, I was alone in my studio working intensely on some paintings totally unaware of the chaos emerging and gathering momentum in my city, where government supporters attacked the largely peaceful and nonviolent protesters outside Temple Trees. They then proceeded to Galle Face where they destroyed the tents at GotaGoGama, including the medical tent and the library, and the people gathered there were assaulted. Finally they were dispersed with water cannon and tear gas and riot police were called in to control the situation as lawyers and office workers came out to protect the protesters exercising their democratic right. A country wide curfew was imposed. Condemnation for the attacks on peaceful protesters poured in from diplomats, international human rights organizations and local civil society. The paintings on that day were done in a frenzy and they were, unusually, all of our island, although I knew nothing of the developments of the day until a few hours after the curfew was announced.
One year later, I have been working on these paintings over the last several months thinking about and reliving those times, and particularly the 9th and feeling increasingly sad for our beloved land. These painting are all in memoriam and an evocation of thoughts and feelings about that shocking day, but also our ever present hopes and longing for peace and prosperity in our beautiful and beloved Lanka.
I invited human rights activists, political analysts and media personnel to create a one sentence title for the unseen works and asked them to share their thoughts on what they felt, what the aragalaya achieved and where we stand now.
The elusive moment of liberation will live in our hearts, even in the depths of despair. Radhika Coomaraswamy
The remarkable citizen mobilization shook us to the core and highlighted the power of the people and a year later the demand for system change must continue if Sri Lanka is to have genuine reckoning and transformation. Bhavani Fonseka
The executive presidency serves the ruling elite, never the common good. Asanga Welikala
The most perfect artwork of all time would be a compassionate and humane world and a protected and loved planet. Anoma Wijewardene
The ninth was the perfect illustration of the entrenched nature of the deep dysfunctionality of the violent and abusive state which is the constant and which must change. Ambika Satkunanathan
The youth have jolted us out of our complacency and reminded us that we can demand for better, for more; because there is still hope left even when many have given up on Sri Lanka’s capacity to change. Thyagi Ruwanpathirana
Whatever the challenges, each and every one of us must be the change our country yearns for, and deserves. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu
I believe in the goodness and integrity of the Sri Lankan people; we will rise from these difficult times for the sake of our future generations. Minoli de Soysa