Remains of the Day: 9.5.22

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.

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