Category Archives: commoditification

Galle Fort built on the Backs of African Slave Labour

Jeevan Thiagarajah in Daily News, 25 March 2019with this title“Slaves built Galle Fort” … …. with highlighting emphasis imposed by The Editor, Thuppahi

The topic of the piece today was triggered by a conversation with the current High Commissioner in Colombo from South Africa, Ruby Marks, who has also posted on her Facebook page this passage, “Calvin Gilfillan, Head of Die Kasteel, affirmed what we suspected-the Dutch conceptualized and supervised, but it was the labour of an estimated 15,000 Africans brought from Portuguese and Dutch colonies, that did the back breaking work of actually building the Fort and the other ones scattered across Sri Lanka. I was shocked by how little was known in Sri Lanka about this. I visited the cramped quarters where the slaves were kept, the dungeons where they were imprisoned, and the cemetery-now a car park where they were buried. And my heart wept.

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The Moonstone that graced a Garden in Sussex …. and then Sold for $767,000

An Item in ba-bamail edited by Natalia J.

Bronwyn Hickmott took a beautiful garden paver from her late parents’ home and installed it at her own home in Devon, England. In an interview with BBC, Bronwyn said she had been fascinated with the beautiful detailing and the curious shapes of the stone ever since she was a child, which is exactly why she decided to keep it. Little did she know, the curious stone was one of the only seven existing Sri Lankan Sandakada Pahana, which are temple moonstones that date all the way back to the late Anuradhapura Period (10-11th century).

The Moon-stone found at the entrance of Uda Viharaya of Ridhi Vihara Sri Lanka Image Source: Reddit

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Swinging Christmas in Olde Ceylon

 Roel Raymond, in The Roar, 31, December 2017, where the title runs thus: “Christmas In Ceylon In The ’50’s: Swing Bands And Grand Galas”

History records social transformation. It is through the lens of historical narrative that we see the ages and eras of the past and learn of the people, places, and events that made an impact. Documented history throws a light on the customs and rituals of people as they wend their way through time, leaving their mark on a particular epoch. In the 1950’s, Ceylon has just gained independence from the British Raj, the fruits of which were yet to be seen. Many of the cultural influences of the British were still apparent, including speaking the English language, clothing styles, and partaking in English customs and holidays.

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Galle Fort: A Heritage Site under Threat from Gentrification?

Uditha Jinadasa   Interviewed  by Doreen van den Boogaart & Luc Bulten

In the Spring of 2020 Dr. Uditha Jinadasa defended her dissertation ‘Changes in the Cultural Landscape and their Impacts on Heritage Management: A Study of Dutch Fort at Galle, Sri Lanka’ and earned her PhD from the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University. The fortified town of Galle is a living heritage city, but this status is threated by gentrification. Dr. Jinadasa researched what has happened to the architecture, demography, economy, and city culture since the Fort has become UNESCO World Heritage in 1988. Luc Bulten and Doreen van den Boogaart, young ambassadors of the Netherlands Sri Lanka Foundation, interviewed her about her thesis and her view on heritage management in Sri Lanka.

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Insights into Victorian Ceylon’s Westernized Bourgeoisie via the Jeronis Pieris Letters

Yomal Senerath-Yapa,“Family sagas and a peek at Victorian Ceylon’s westernised bourgeoisie” in  www.elanka.com.au/tag/yomal-senerath/ AND https://www.pressreader.com/sri-lanka/sunday-times-sri-lanka/20201108/282222308278502 …. 12 November 2020 = a REVIEW of the second edition of Facets of Modern Ceylon History -Through the Letters of Jeronis Pieris by Michael Roberts

Few voices of the early 19th Century bourgeois Ceylonese have survived straight from the horse’s mouth to-date. Who were this new elite? What were those first English-educated generations like? How did Macaulay’s “class of people who can act as intermediaries between us and the millions we govern — English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and intellect” fit in?

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Remembering Sean Connery…. the Quintessential James Bond

Anura Gunasekera, in Sunday Island, 9 November 2020, where the title reads  “The Quintessential Bond and the Quintessential Scot”” 

As a teen my introduction to James Bond was “Casino Royale”, a tattered paperback copy bought second-hand, for a few rupees, from the Bethel Book shop in Dehiwala. The cover image depicted the full figure of a curvy female in distress, overshadowed by the head and shoulders of a cruelly handsome, steely-eyed male, hair artfully disheveled, forelock falling across the forehead, and the Walther PPK ready for action. With an uncanny prescience, the cover designer had captured the key ingredients that subsequently built the film franchise.

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The Economy: Potential Impact of 20A

Sam Samarasinghe aka SWR de Samarasinghe, in Daily Mirror, 20 October 2020, where the title reads “Socio-Economic Implications of the 20A”

  The draft 20th Amendment (20A) to the Constitution is being opposed by the main opposition parties and some segments of civil society and professional groups. The most politically significant opposition comes from some leaders of the Sangha who played a major role in the election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as President. They want a new constitution as the SLPP promised, but not the 20th Amendment. In general, the main criticism of 20A is that it would create an authoritarian Government run by the Executive President without the usual checks and balances that the three main branches of government, legislature, executive and judiciary have in a normal democracy. 

It is also public knowledge that some of the leading monks who back the SLPP and are critical of 20A are very close to premier Mahinda Rajapaksa

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Air Ceylon’s First Flight to Jeddah in 1950

Elmo Jayawardena

This is an ancient story, most records are lost, buried or moth-eaten. Still, there is a lot remaining in the minds of men who heard how things happened and what was commercial flying like in its infant days in Ceylon.

The aeroplane popularly known as ‘Dakota’ had been the workhorse of most allied forces during the Second World War. I do not know how many DC-3s were produced during the war years but they sure were somewhere around 16,000, possibly more. The aircraft came in various models whilst the prototype remained the fundamental ‘Dakota’ flying machine. After the war ended most surplus DC-3s were converted to passenger-carrying aircraft. The new-born airlines popping up all over the world in ‘born again’ independent countries started their airline operations with secondhand military-used ‘Dakotas’.

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The Plantation Economy in British Ceylon: The Downtrodden Indian Tamil Labour and the Dispossessed Kandyan Peasantry

Uditha Devapriya, in SAT MAG” of The Island on September 19 and September 26, 2020.

PREFACE: This essay does not present a complete history of plantation slavery, which anyway has been covered many times before by scholars of repute, including Professor Asoka Bandarage, whose Colonialism in Sri Lanka went through a second edition recently. Rather, it counters Sinhala nationalists and those opposed to Sinhala nationalists who equate the position of African-Americans with that of Tamils and Muslims, indicating a failure to distinguish between minority communities which thrived under conditions of colonialism (and neocolonialism) and those which suffered under those conditions. It also counters certain “Marxist” and rightwing academics who see the plantation system as capitalist, and who, while either sympathising with the plight of Estate Tamils or ignoring them outright, single out Kandyan Sinhalese peasants for what they allege to have been their innate laziness under British colonialism, a myth demolished by S. B. D. de Silva in his underrated and unread magnum opusThe Political Economy of Underdevelopment.

Tea Plantation labour in Ceylon – circa 1890s

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How Robert Knox’s Opus took shape in 1681

Anna Winterbottom, in The British Journal for the History of Science, Volume 42Issue 4., December 2009 , pp. 515-538 where the title is Producing and using the Historical Relation of Ceylon: Robert Knox, the East India Company and the Royal Society”

Abstract: Robert Knox’s An Historical Relation of the Island of Ceylon was produced, published and enlarged through the collaboration of the author with scholars including Robert Hooke and financial support from members of the East India Company. The Relation should be seen in the context of a number of texts collected, translated or commissioned by the East India Company in cooperation with the Royal Society during the late seventeenth century that informed and shaped both European expansion and natural philosophy. As well as circulating between European intellectual centres, often reorientated in the process of translation, these texts served as practical guides across settlements and trading posts abroad. Comparing written accounts with experience led to annotations and borrowings that served as the basis for further writings. Company records and Knox’s own unpublished works reveal how the Relation was used as the basis for bio-prospecting for naturally occurring drugs and food sources and in efforts at agricultural transplantation spanning the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Through the reports of seamen like Knox, such experiments contributed to contemporary theories concerning the effects of latitude on plant life.

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