The time we are living in is a very unfortunate time in human history. From every corner in the world what we hear is mourning and lamenting about a dying humanity. It is an unbearable pain to see women and children becoming victim to one tragedy or the other. Where is there a right for someone to grab another’s life, or to assault, or to make someone disappear, or to assassinate someone else? As an artist, this is the problem that tortures my mind. In truth, it is but a manifestation of the deterioration of humanity. Therefore, my questioning about the present world is in the name of humanity.
Leo Tolstoy said once something to the effect that human being can live without art or literature. However more beautiful world can exist without human beings. The creative aesthetic, beauty, is enlivened by art and literature, and human beings have a link that is not breakable at any time. Art is fundamental human rights.
If human life forgets art and literature, i.e. creative talent gets dried up or lost for some reason, civilization will go into crisis and violence against each other will rise to the surface. In social existence of the human being, conscience is art and literature. The society that lacks conscience is a violent womb that creates opportunities for looters and crafty intellectuals. In past history, art and literature helped develop the human being from wretchedness to civilization.
Therefore art and literature is not a commodity to be sold in competitive consumer market but it is a way of social discipline. Art and literature create compassion and sensitivity in human beings. Compassion and sensitivity repeatedly regenerate within human beings living in social diversity the importance of co-existence and for relating closely with nature. Therefore, art and literature is the creative and regenerative capacity of humanity.
We know art is human expression that has a certain distance from truth. However art and literature creates the path to take us towards the reality of genuine truth. In the life of the person and the lives of others, creating critical capacity to understand the beauty and variety of nature, is something generated by art and literature.
In the journey towards that beauty the capacity for introspectiveness blossoms and puts out new leaves. In order to reveal this feeling to others, we use art and literature as a medium of communication. A human being who understands the world and nature through his or her senses, can recreate that again and share it with wider society and thereby create in other persons the capacity for appreciation. Through such capacities for appreciation, the sensitivity towards nature and others’ sensitivity is born like a fetus and thereby social co-existence is spread and the civilization matures. Therefore, civilization is not tall concert buildings or big highways, but genuine art and literature spread into every corner that becomes human culture manifested with proper discipline.
Human beings in the past have used art and literature as a common medium of expression. Not only in the stories, but also in dancing, poetry, singing, drawing, and dresses but also in housing created for daily needs, the creative capacities get spread. That was based on the knowledge and the experience gained from nature. And this knowledge was bequeathed from one generation to the other. We call this the generation of knowledge. There is no past human group that has not done this.
In order to maintain our humanity, respecting each other and gaining interpersonal knowledge, reconciliation or common existence is an important practice. What was meant by reconciliation was language, beliefs, worships, customs, of a people who are living in a particular territory without breaking its continuity and keeping its unity. In the same way, one of the common features of reconciliation is the manner in which a sense of dignity of every group of people, keeping equality and the brotherhood among them, is maintained.
Reconciliation is not just another word in the language or a fantasy created to hide incapacity. Reconciliation does not have a commercial basis and is not a consumerist project. Reconciliation flows from one generation to another without a break and is a harvest of a long conversation on the common discipline.
The reconciliation that is created by art is a creation of literature and is a human right. Common human rights cannot survive without art and literature. Therefore, it is the duty of all of us to preserve and liberate ourselves with art, which is a common human right. Only then would the human rights we expect become a social reality.
*This article is was originally written in Sinhala by Dharmasiri Bandaranayake, an award winning drama and film producer, director and an actor. Translated from Sinhala by Basil Fernando