By Aravinth Kumar –
At the start of 2017 the President’s Office and the Office for National Unity launched a campaign to raise awareness of “Sri Lankan Shared Values”. The proposed aim is to bring together the people from each of the individual ethnic groups in Sri Lanka and create a “unified national identity”. Given the reoccurrence in extremism emanating from all groups lately, creating this “unified national identity” is of national importance.
With this in mind, I wish to demonstrate via a drawing what I believe represents a unified Sri Lankan identity.
Note: This drawing has been designed and created by myself (the writer of this article). I apologise that it’s not the best drawn.
The background is split into two; three quarters being blue and the remaining quarter being yellow. These colours aim to represent the sea/sky and the land respectively.
The background aims to reinforce the concept that we are all living on one united and indivisible island. It also intends to bring to attention two of the most important (and historical) jobs that members of all of the ethnic communities in Sri Lanka partake in; agriculture and fishing.
The 3 headed tree
The most dominating and noticeable part of the drawing is the ‘3 headed tree’. Each of the ‘heads’ are different but attached together by the same trunk which is embedded into the land. The 3 ‘heads’ are the ‘Coconut Tree’ (middle), the ‘Palmyra Tree’ (left) and the ‘Palm Tree’ (right). What this aims to represent, is the different communities i.e. the coconut tree represents the Sinhalese, the Palmyra tree represents the Tamil and the palm tree represents the Muslims.
The Sinhala majority south of the country is dominated by the coconut trees. As you move north, the landscape takes a drastic change and the Palmyra trees come to dominate the landscape. The palm tree is heavily revolved around Islam and can be seen doted around the Muslim dominated parts of Sri Lanka. As a result, these trees have become synonymous with each ethnic group and are thus used to represent each community.
Whilst each of the trees individually is different (i.e. in terms of appearance and the fruits they provide) they are from the same botanical family, Arecaceae. In much the same way, whilst a Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim wear different clothes (appearance), speak different languages, practise different religions and participate in different cultural events (fruit), they are all part of the same family, Sri Lanka.
The 3 ‘heads’ are positioned at same height to symbolise that we are all equal. The ‘Coconut Tree head’ (Sinhalese) is placed in the middle to symbolise its central role (as the majority). The ‘Palmyra Tree head’ and the ‘Palm Tree head’ are connected by branches to the main trunk to symbolise the indivisible connection to both the land and the central ‘Coconut Tree’.
Trying to remove one of the ‘heads’ is impossible. Whilst you could try and cut off a ‘head’, it will grow back. Thus, the only way to permanently remove one of the ‘heads’ would be cutting the trunk off the tree. However, doing this will lead to all three ‘heads’ being destroyed. To put this idea into perspective, there have been times when one ‘head’ (Sinhala/Tamil/Muslim) has tried to hurt another ‘head’ (Sinhala/Tamil/Muslim) e.g. 1983 riots, LTTE expulsion of Muslims, Aluthgama riots etc. In all these cases, while the indicated target was one group against another group, the end result was all the ethnic groups (the whole tree) suffered.
My overall aim through this drawing is to symbolise that irrespective of our differences, we are unfortunately/fortunately (whichever way you wish to view it) connected. Our destiny is shared; either we work together and prosper or we will continue to suffer!
Nirmalan Dhas / June 23, 2017
It is interesting to note how easily the author constructs his “unified national identity” without any trace of awareness of the Tea Tree. Until this amnesia is responded to and remedied there will be no “unified national identity”, only a fragmented one that marginalizes the Tea Tree that has been violently cropped and slashed and compressed into a bush that supported the islands colonial economy and still forms its base.
How and why the author has been able to ignore the Tea Tree is a story in itself that requires telling. This is not of course the place where that story must be told. It is not a pleasant story. It is an ugly one that tells of how the pyramid of oppression works so that the oppressed themselves oppress and marginalize in order to maintain a semblance of their own denied identity.
This oppression of the oppressed by both the oppressor ans oppressed is complete because it is blessed by all oppressors and provides a platform where oppressed and oppressor are able to join hands and sit together at the same table and share a glass or two as they jointly oppress a common target – here the Tea Tree. Appropriately the tang of tea is laced with a streak of bitterness that spreads through its markets around the world.
Silva / June 23, 2017
Aravinth Kumar, interesting take but like Nirmalan mentioned in the above comment you have missed an important brach!!?
What do you think about the Tea tree??
K.Pillai / June 23, 2017
Aravinth Kumar through “A Sri Lankan In Drawing” is restating “United we stand Divided we fall”. We been falling for some 70 years – the fall initiated by greedy politicians who created this language/religion divide. Yes, at one stage we were in the altitude where the multi-branched coconut tree was everywhere. We were pushed and we passed the Failed State Height. Right now we are in the altitude of thorny shrubs. Those who pushed us have helicopters – they regularly fly the coconuts and stash them overseas. Sorry Aravinth – you cannot beat them so try and join them
Native Vedda / June 23, 2017
K.Pillai————“We been falling for some 70 years – the fall initiated by greedy politicians who created this language/religion divide. ” ————————————————————————————————————————Actually the fall started when the public racist Anagarika Dharmapala and his fascist mob started rebranding Sinhalese and Buddhism into a lethal cocktail of narrowly defined politicised religion and a new race, Sinhala/Buddhism and Sinhala/Buddhists. ——————————————————————————- In his days he admired the Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. In Germany the denazification was carried out successfully. Here in this island the stupid people have successfully been recruited into and brain washed by Sinhala/Buddhist fascistic ideology. We witnessed the fascist movement actively enforcing its will over majority of the people through various devious schemes, plans, projects, …………… over the past 100 years through both leading parties. —————————The Tamil fascists failed and failed miserably. — They need to learn from their Sinhala brethren how best to run a successful fascist movement, given that all the Sinhala/Buddhist parties have immense experience and limited success in their fascistic effort.
Tharman / June 23, 2017
It is very admirable that the younger generation wants to have a multi-ethnic and cohesive society as a whole in the SL. Of course they need fine tuning but their fundamental ideology is very sustainable and the essence for the country to sustain too. I wish CT provides similar opportunity from the youngsters of the other communities to represent their willingness for at least the new younger generation will take this country forward.
Isharath / June 23, 2017
India, for example, secularism is what enables people of all religions to have confidence in the state, and strengthens the feeling of being “Indian”
India isn’t a Hindu nation, why? Had India been declared a Hindu nation then many other religious communities would have demanded for a separate countries too.
Native Vedda / June 24, 2017
—————-“India isn’t a Hindu nation, why?” ———Not anymore. The Hindians are too busy Hindianisation/Hinduttvasisation of the country, starting with writing history myths and Puranas are now considered part of Hindian history, ———–lot more is happening, Hindians are catching up with their Sinhala/Buddhist fascists. The learning is mutual.