Potency, Power and People in Groups– British Ceylon to Modern Times via Pictures

  Penance on road, Sri Maurpthy Pathirikaali Temple, 2009

This book is both a display and a reflective exercise on the power of imagery, whether from camera or painting or etching. Images can be as captivating as seductive as misleading.  They can serve as raw data that provides glimpses of facets of life lost to the modern generations. They must, of course, be deployed by social scientists with attention to context and in association with other forms of data.

This collection was initially spawned as one part of the collection that was incorporated within Ismeth Raheem’s Images of British Ceylon; but lay dormant. The photgraphs have now has been extensively expanded and revised in ways that engage events in Sri Lanka and abroad in recent years. Readers will therefore have their contemporary experiences as an aid when they critically interpret the more modern photographs in this collection.

My explorative essay within these covers is incomplete. It does not explore the manner in which both government agencies, media outlets and LTTE arms manipulated the placement of photographs [sometimes undated] to drive home some of their arguments. Fabrications and half-truths are an integral aspect of agit-prop activity in heightened conflicts. This is a netherworld, underworld, dirty world. Even moral crusaders resort to such selections or choose to see only what they wish to see.

  5 = A raffish British hunting party

POTENCY, POWER & PEOPLE IN GROUPS, Colombo, Marga Institute, 2011

ISBN 978-955-582-129-2 … containing 78 pictorial ilustrations and 100 pages otf text supported by Endnotes..


1= “Native types” as a collage ……. 2 = A Moorman ….

3 = A native woman depicted by artist  Hippolyte Sylvaf

 61 = International cricket, upcountry, 1892

64= Calverley House Verandah

 43 = A Govenment Agent and his kachcheri staff

44 = Houseboats at Ratnapura

12= NM Perera addressing a crowd during 1953 hartal

 31 = LTTE leaders on platform at Sudumalai, 4 August 1987

74 = SriLankan supporters target Darrell Hair, Lahore, 16 March 1996

  75 = Tamil activists target Sri Lanka, Manuka Oval,12 February 2008 

 76 = Tamil activists target Ajantha Mendis and Lanka, Toronto,October 2008

   *** ***


  1. “Native types” as a collage

2a. A cocky Moorman [identified as a “A Moorman Tamby”]

   2b. A “Madras Merchant”

  1. Hippolyte Silvaf’s paintings of colourful dress styles
  2. Hunting trophies
  3. A raffish British hunting party [Palinda 300 check]
  4. Governor Gordon with Kandyan chiefs [Palinda 75]
  5. Kotahena disturbance, 1883
  6. August members of the Orient Club, circa 1907 [Wright ]
  7. Colombo Municipal Councillors, c. 1907 [Wright ]
  8. Temperance agitation: mass gathering
  9. Bracegirdle affair: Bracegirdle with LSSP leaders at Horana
  10. Hartal in 1953: NM Perera announces decision to have an island wide hartal in protest against the budget proposals, Galle Face Green
  11. Bandaranaike & masses for Sinhala Only, 1956
  12. Fasting for Sinhala Only: FR Jayasuriya, 24 May 1956
  13. Mettananda addresses Sinhala crowd at Galle Face Green, 1956
  14. Colombo fort & moat in the 1860s – eastern face
  15. Jaffna fort & moat [134]
  16. Galle Fort, 1890s
  17. Galle Fort rooftop scene, 1890s
  18. The western seaside of Galle Fort [A 126]
  19. Galle Fort entrance today
  20. Jetavanarāmaya in 19th century ruin
  21. “Festival day crowds” [Palinda 66]
  22. Äsēla Day Perahära
  23. Hindu festival, Eastern Province
  24. Kappalodiya Pillaiyar Festival, VVT
  25. Ammān water-cutting festival, Trincomalee, 2004
  26. Rolling on road during chariot festival of the Sri Mayurapathy Paththirakaali Temple, 26 July 2009
  27. JVP rally at Colombo Town Hall, 1977
  28. LTTE rally at Sudumalai Ammān Temple hears Velupillai Pirāpaharan speak,  4 August 1987
  1. LTTE ‘directorate’ at Sudumalai platform, 4 August 1987 [Ivan 374]
  2. Colvin R. de Silva stirs the crowd
  3. “A group of Ceylon coffee planters, 1868”

34a. A British Planter and estate workers

       34b: Coffee plucker [Palinda 295]

  1. Workers drying coffee [Palinda 434?]
  2. “Native coopers” [Palinda O=04]
  3. Harbour workers [Palinda 310]
  4. Graphite sorting yards [Wright 616]
  5. Tea plantation labourers [Palinda 360]
  6. Tea estate workers [Palinda 433]
  7. Houseboats, Ratnapura [Palinda T=156]
  8. Lewella ferry [Palinda 360]
  9. A Government Agent and his kachchery officials
  10. A classroom and its teacher [Palinda 460]
  11. Teachers at the Ceylon Government Technical College
  12. A body of Christian priests ?? [Palinda 139]
  13. A soldiering reserve of Ceylonese Volunteers
  14. His Majesty’s subjects: outdoor reception for a VIP
  15. Elephant carrying religious icon of tribute [Palinda 316]
  16. A body of Buddhist monks [Palinda 132]
  17. A cremation of a bhikkhu [Wright 291]
  18. Muslim men preparing for worship [Palinda 380]
  19. Hindu devotees [Palinda 134]
  20. Boer POWs assembled for worship
  21. “Kandyan children”­
  22. A body of leading graphite entrepreneurs
  23. The Jayewardene legal luminaries
  24. Colombo Racecourse, Galle Face Green
  25. Darrawella races, 1890
  26. International cricket, up country, 1892
  27. Planting fraternity watch cricket [Palinda 442]
  28. Colombo Lawn Tennis Club [Palinda 450]
  29. Middle class life style [Wright 750]
  30. Calverley House verandah
  31. Bandaranaikes of Horagolla

    66a. Don Spater Senanayake and family 

         66b. Senanayakes and friends relax at Botale family home            

  1. Warusahännädigē de Soysas of Moratuwa
  2. Temple wall mural: Panadura Debate of 1873 commemorated

69a. Chelvanayakam and others at satyagrāha, Galle Face Green

       69b. Chelva addresses crowd, n. d.

70. SLFP and Leftist leaders enjoy symbolic burning of copies of the DC Bill, 1967

  1. Local crowd watch Aussie cricketers play in Colombo, 1938
  2. Sri Lankan cricket team at prayer before World Cup, 1996
  3. Sri Lankan supporters at Lahore in 1996 target Darrel Hair

74a, b. Sports nationalism: Sri Lankan supporters at World Cup in West Indies, 2007

  1. Tamil protest group, Manuka Oval, Canberra, 12 February 2008
  2. Tamil demonstrators target Ajantha Mendis, Toronto, October 2008
  3. Tamil demo & symbolic battle, October 2008
  4. Tamil demonstration in London as LTTE slides to defeat, 2009

And here is a photograph that should have been there …. BUT is NOT.

 Mariamma, that legendary groundswoman at the Oval seen here in 1948

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