Category Archives: Portuguese in Indian Ocean

Shihan De Silva Jayasuriya’s Wide-ranging Work on Portuguese Creole and the Kaffir

Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya of the University of London has been researching the Portuguese in the East for over twenty years and has generated a significant number of studies on Portuguese Creole peoples, their life-style ad  languages in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. Her output of work has been as varied as commendable and I begin with a summary of one article dealing with “a nineteenth-century manuscript in Sri Lankan Portuguese Creole” because i am presently fashioning an article that refers to the work of Hugh Nevill on the Kāberi Hatana in order to ‘educate’ those who have touched on African slave labour at Galle without possessing any background information on the topic. This essay is in process and will appear soon….. Michael Roberts

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Galle: Four Hundred Years Ago

Chandra R. De Silva

The political and military history of the port city of Galle, located on the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka, is well documented. This brief report is merely an effort to fill in a gap in the records relating to the history of this port in the half century between the 1580s and the 1630s.

The popular belief is that the name of the settlement comes from the Sinhala word Gaalla or cattle pen, but in his description of Galle in the Saragossa manuscript probably finalized in the 1630s Constantino de Sa de Miranda suggests that the name comes from the word Gal (stone) (Flores p. 130) of which there was plenty around Galle harbor. The Portuguese historian de Queyroz (p. 31), writing in the late seventeenth century, also suggests that the name comes from the word Gal (stone) or Galgue (stone house).

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A Blaring of the 1956 Sinhala Chauvinist Trumpet ….. AGAIN!

“Way Forward” in Lanka Future and #FAKENEWS, 22 February 2018 where the title reads “The racist anti-Sinhala journalists — past and present”

Officially, Sri Lanka got its Independence in 1948.

However, it was not until 1956 that the masses were truly freed. In the years from 1948-1956, the “British Raj” style of government continued in Sri Lanka. The ruling politicians were all of the kalu-suddha variety. Minorities ruled the country because they were the ones with the education and training, and contacts, required to obtain all the plum positions.

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The Dutch Burghers in Sri Lanka Today

Prabath De Silva, in Daily Mirror, 21 January 2021, with this title “The Dutch Burghers in Sri Lanka”

 “We are a vanishing tribe in Sri Lanka. The first paternal ancestor of my father’s family who arrived in Sri Lanka in 1774 was Pieter Scharenguivel. He was a Quarter Master in the service of the United Dutch East India Company which ruled the maritime provinces of Sri Lanka from the middle of the 17th century to 1796. The Dutch Burgher identity and consciousness within the family I grew up in was extremely significant. It played a role  in the conversations, traditions, customs, food, perceptions and social interactions. During the British colonial rule, our community produced eminent surgeons, doctors, legal luminaries, judges, engineers, sportsmen, musicians , historians and artists etc.” , said Anne-Marie Scharenguivel (65), a management accountant and a member of Sri Lanka’s tiny  Dutch Burgher community of less than 30000 people.

Mrs. Anne-Marie Scharenguivel

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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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Galle: Basic Facts ….. Historical, General and Pacha

Ruhunu Putra, in THE ISLAND, 2o  November 2020, where the title is “Historical Glance at Galle”

Galle is the capital of the Southern Province. The popular derivation of its name is from the Sinhala word Gaala – a cattle pen. The mighty king Ravana’s cattle pen had extended from the present day Mahapola premises to the Town Hall, according to legend.  Galle is also considered to be the Tarshish in the Bible. It is reputed for cottage-crafts, lace making, tortoise shell work, gem polishing, ivory carving, jewellery and ornamental ebony elephants.

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Felicitations: Fr. SG Perera and His Work

Chryshane Mendis, in Sri Lanka archaeolgy.lk, 26 July 2017 …. and due ultimately to an article in The ALOYSIAN

The student of the colonial history of Sri Lanka has undoubtedly come upon the name of S. G. Perera in their studies. Fr. S. G. Perera, a Catholic Priest of the Society of Jesus, was an exemplary scholar of the last century and whose parallels are unheard of. Publishing over a dozen books and over 300 articles in journals, his contributions to the history of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka and the history of the Portuguese, Dutch and British periods of the island have aided the development of historical knowledge to a great extent in Sri Lanka; what could be called his magnum opus, the translation of the ‘Conquista’ of the 17th century Portuguese historian Fr. Queyroz, is the single most important Portuguese literary work which is the basis for any historical study on the Portuguese period. His proficiency of the Portuguese language gave him access to numerous original sources which he has translated and made available to the public is part of the wonderful legacy of this great historian of Lanka.

Fr. S. G. Perera (image from The Aloysian 1946-1950, Volume 06, No. 03 )

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Portuguese Colombo in 1662 via the Sketches of Esaias Bourse

Chryshane Mendis, in The HistoryFreek, 4 May 2020, where the title reads “Colombo in Transition 1662: Through the Eyes of Artist Esaias Boursse

This short essay serves as an introduction to a rare collection of sketches of Colombo and its environs in the year 1662.

Sinhalese soldier and labourer

Esaias Boursse was a servant of the VOC who made over hundred sketches of daily life in Colombo, mainly focused on the People and the work they were engaged in. This collection is called the “Tijkenboeck” and is held by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. This album containing 116 sheets of drawings came into the possession of the Rijksmuseum in 1996. Its value outweighs the poor quality of some of the drawings in that it captures scenes from within a city which was being transformed from its Portuguese outlook to the Dutch; thus some scenes depict street views of Portuguese Colombo- a phenomena never before captured in drawing except for textual descriptions.

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Amplifying Antiquity within the Galle Fort with Imaginative Restoration

Smrti Daniel, in Sunday Times, 12 July 2020, with this title “Fortifying Galle Fort. A massive project aims to restore the defence works from our colonial past”

As restrictions around the pandemic eased this month, a team of workers returned to Galle Fort. They are in the middle of a two-year restoration project that has them clambering over the great bastions, excavating echoing underground chambers and clearing out an ancient drainage system – all part of an ambitious effort to restore this UNESCO World Heritage Site to its full glory.

Conservation of the gun platforms of the Neptune Bastion

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Portuguese Imprints in Sri Lankan Culture

 Dr Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya, in The Island April 25, 2020, Tracing the Portuguese Cultural Imprint on Sri Lanka”

Way back in 1998, I theorised on the extent of Lusitanisation in Sri Lanka, in my paper entitled The Portuguese Cultural Imprint on Sri Lanka, published in Lusotopie (Journal of Sorbonne, Paris), de Silva Jayasuriya (2000):  “The Portuguese era marked the end of medieval Sri Lanka and the beginning of modern Sri Lanka. It changed the island’s orientation away from India and gave it a unique identity moulded by almost 450 years of Western influence due to the presence of three successive European powers: the Portuguese (1505-1658), the Dutch (1658-1796) and the British (1796-1948). The Portuguese cultural imprint can be analyzed by examining: (a) those who claim Portuguese descent (the Portuguese Burghers), (b) those who do not claim Portuguese descent but who follow the Roman Catholic faith, (c) those who are neither of Portuguese descent nor follow the Catholic faith but nevertheless underwent a sociocultural transformation. Language is a necessary element in the set of culture. The other elements are subjective and could include religion, food, dress, music and dance.

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