Category Archives: Portuguese in Indian Ocean

A Tale of Resistance: The Story of the Arrival of the Portuguese

Michael Roberts

An ABSTRACT of an article that appeared in print in Ethnos, 1989, vol 54: 1 & 2,  pp. 69-82…. available online for payment to Taylor & Francis.

This essay decodes a sixteenth century folktale which records the Sinhalese reaction to the arrival of the first Portuguese. Where the historiography has interpreted this tale as benign wonderment in the face of exotica, a piecemeal deconstruction of the allegorical clues in the ‘story is utilised to reveal how the Sinhalese linked the Portuguese with demons and with Vasavarti Mārayā, the arch enemy of the Buddha. In this fashion the Portuguese and the Christian sacrament of communion were represented as dangerous, disordering forces.

Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under accountability, ancient civilisations, cultural transmission, disparagement, economic processes, ethnicity, hatan kavi, heritage, historical interpretation, Indian Ocean politics, landscape wondrous, life stories, patriotism, politIcal discourse, Portuguese in Indian Ocean, power politics, security, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, the imaginary and the real, travelogue, unusual people, war reportage, world events & processes

Portugal and Sri Lanka: The Historiography Today

Chandra R. de Silva,* whose original title runs thus: “Portugal and Sri Lanka: Recent Trends in Historiography”[1] … an article that was originally published in Re-exploring the Links: History and Constructed Histories between Portugal and Sri Lanka, ed. Jorge Flores, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2007, pp. 3-26

In a recent article entitled ‘Theoretical Approaches to Sri Lankan History and the Early Portuguese period,’ Alan Strathern points out that although historical writing in Sri Lanka has become ‘the site of vibrant controversy’ due partly to the ethnic conflict, by and large, it has contributed little to wider debates on post-colonialism and the nature of historical thinking.’[2] I would agree with this broad proposition. What I intend to do in this paper is to extend my gaze beyond the sixteenth century to which Alan consciously limits himself and look critically at the extent to which historical writing in the past half century has enhanced our understanding of the complex connections between Portugal and Sri Lanka in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, … I will concentrate largely on the area of social interaction and leave the other areas — political, economic and cultural – for detailed consideration at a later time.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under economic processes, hatan kavi, heritage, historical interpretation, Indian Ocean politics, insurrections, landscape wondrous, life stories, military strategy, patriotism, Portuguese imperialism, Portuguese in Indian Ocean, power politics, religiosity, revenue registers, sri lankan society, teaching profession, the imaginary and the real, transport and communications, unusual people, world events & processes

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

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under ancient civilisations, British colonialism, centre-periphery relations, colonisation schemes, communal relations, cultural transmission, disparagement, education, ethnicity, heritage, historical interpretation, Indian Ocean politics, landscape wondrous, life stories, literary achievements, performance, photography, politIcal discourse, Portuguese in Indian Ocean, power politics, religiosity, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, travelogue, unusual people, world events & processes

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).

Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under architects & architecture, centre-periphery relations, commoditification, cultural transmission, economic processes, heritage, historical interpretation, Indian Ocean politics, island economy, landscape wondrous, life stories, military expenditure, politIcal discourse, Portuguese in Indian Ocean, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, transport and communications, travelogue, unusual people, war reportage, world events & processes

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.

Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under accountability, ancient civilisations, British imperialism, centre-periphery relations, communal relations, cultural transmission, democratic measures, disparagement, ethnicity, governance, heritage, historical interpretation, island economy, landscape wondrous, language policies, legal issues, life stories, patriotism, politIcal discourse, Portuguese in Indian Ocean, power politics, self-reflexivity, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, slanted reportage, sri lankan society, the imaginary and the real, truth as casualty of war, unusual people, vengeance, welfare & philanthophy, world events & processes, zealotry

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

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under accountability, British colonialism, communal relations, cultural transmission, democratic measures, discrimination, economic processes, ethnicity, European history, heritage, historical interpretation, immigration, island economy, landscape wondrous, language policies, life stories, literary achievements, patriotism, plural society, politIcal discourse, Portuguese in Indian Ocean, security, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, travelogue, unusual people, welfare & philanthophy, world events & processes

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.

Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under accountability, architects & architecture, authoritarian regimes, British imperialism, caste issues, centre-periphery relations, commoditification, discrimination, economic processes, governance, heritage, historical interpretation, human rights, Indian Ocean politics, island economy, landscape wondrous, legal issues, life stories, military strategy, politIcal discourse, population, Portuguese in Indian Ocean, power politics, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, transport and communications, trauma, travelogue, unusual people, working class conditions, world events & processes

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.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under accountability, architects & architecture, art & allure bewitching, British colonialism, centre-periphery relations, communal relations, cultural transmission, economic processes, education, ethnicity, heritage, historical interpretation, island economy, landscape wondrous, life stories, literary achievements, modernity & modernization, Muslims in Lanka, photography, politIcal discourse, population, Portuguese in Indian Ocean, religiosity, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, the imaginary and the real, tolerance, tourism, travelogue, unusual people, welfare & philanthophy, world events & processes

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 )

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under ancient civilisations, British colonialism, centre-periphery relations, communal relations, cultural transmission, education, ethnicity, heritage, historical interpretation, Indian Ocean politics, island economy, land policies, landscape wondrous, life stories, Portuguese in Indian Ocean, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, teaching profession, unusual people, world events & processes

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.

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under architects & architecture, authoritarian regimes, colonisation schemes, cultural transmission, economic processes, heritage, historical interpretation, Indian traditions, island economy, landscape wondrous, life stories, military strategy, politIcal discourse, population, Portuguese in Indian Ocean, religiosity, sri lankan society, travelogue, unusual people, working class conditions, world events & processes