Monday, August 6, 2007

Jagath Weerasinghe is an Artist and Archaeologist. He is a Senior Lecturer at the Post-Graduate Institute of Archeology of the University of Kelaniya.

Very few artists bring out creations on the prevailing sociopolitical climate of the country. For Jagath Weerasinghe, the imagery of the infamous photograph of a Tamil youth stripped naked at Borella bus stand and killed in July 1983 focuses his work on these issues . This particular photograph has haunted Jagath Weerasinghe for almost a decade. The image came to dominate his paintings. Later he drew a painting similar to the photograph.

"1983 was a turning point. Most Sinhalese do not want to talk about it seriously, and want to be very silent about it. This is like a major stigma in your background. And nobody wants to see deep into it why and how it could happen in front of our eyes" said Jagath Weerasinghe.

He further said that, "I arrived at the Pettah main bus stand from Dambulla while the riots started to erupt in the city. There were seeds of racism within me, so that I could be manipulated. I wasn't totally innocent, because, these seeds of racism were within me for a moment, although I never took part in any act of violence. My family protected Tamils in 1983".

He also queries about how many tears have been wiped out by the peace process. Jagath says that, peace process is not all about stopping the fight, but about looking at each other's suffering and sharing and changing the social relations.

His recent works were displayed at the Red Dot gallery in Pittakotte for three days-August 4 th, 5th and 6th 2007. Red Dot Gallery is contemporary-artist- run gallery, and first of its kind in Sri Lanka.

His paintings speak for humanity. Correct colours are used according to the circumstances. Saffron is often used to depict the Buddhist nationalism. There was pin drop silence in the gallery to view and absorb the paintings. The paintings made to realize the violence deepens daily, and we accept it as another daily routine.

He was commissioned by the then Sri Lankan government to design the monument of a 'Monument for Democracy-Shrine for the Innocents' as a remembrance for the innocent victims of the ruthless violence that the Southern part of the country experienced in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was completed in 1999. This monument was dedicated to the victims of political violence and human rights abuses in late 1980s and early 1990s which happened in Southern Sri Lanka.