A report and some observations on SLACLLS
Last week in the hill capital, Mahanuwara, the Sri Lanka Association
for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies held its fourth
biennial conference (SLACLLS) at two venues: Swiss Residency Hotel and
Emeritus Professor in English, Ashley Halpe's residence at a hilltop in
an affluent area.
The programme included speeches, panel discussions, felicitations,
readings, performances, reading of papers, and showing of a short
digital film. And of course fabulous dinner and lunch were hosted by
Ashley and Bridgette Halpe's.
There were four participants from neighbouring India: academics - C N
Srinath, H.Kalpana and Debarati Bandyopadhyay. There was also Keki
Daruwalla, a poet. Local participants included academics Ashley Halpe,
Walter Perera, Carema Jayaweera and Sumathy Sivamohan and vanguard
writers Tissa Abeysekera and Carl Muller. The Principal of St.Peter's
College, Rev.Fr.Gaston Perera read his work. Besides him, there were
women poets Jean Arasanayagam, Kamala Wijeratne, Premini Amarasinghe and
Lakshmi Samarakoon. Apart from these there were a few academics,
teachers, journalists and literary enthusiasts.
Titles of a few papers read: The Menace of Theory (Prof.C.N.Srinath),
Text and the Polemics of Representation (Dr.Kalpana Rao), Shane Joseph's
Redemption in Paradise: The many-faceted Aspects of Postcolonial
Literatures (Carl Muller), Code Switching: A meaning Making Device (Careema
Jayaweera), Margaret Atwood's World: Resistance, Reactionaries and the
Complicity of History of History (Debarati Bandopadhyay) and
Fundamentalism or Traditional Islam (Careema Jayaweera)
Here are some excerpts from the passages presented in the papers:
"How does the text become a representation? A review of select Sri
Lankan Poetry: Identity has by and large been addressed in different
ways within the preview of post colonial literature. Creative writing
has also been seen in recent addresses of post colonialism as
representations of culture.
In such a plethora of debatable issues with regard to the polemics of
representation, my paper would like to review some of the post colonial
assumptions with regard to colonized nations' literary representations.
Keeping in mind, factors such as the location of the seminar, and the
tome duration, the present paper hopes to do a broad review of some of
the post colonial issues mentioned above and then critically examine
select Sri Lankan poetry with regard to the metaphors of representation.
"(Dr. Kalpana Rao) "Margaret Atwoods's World: resistance, Reactionaries
and the Complicity of History: In Margaret Atwood's fictional, at times
dystopian world, protagonists are both powerful and vulnerable. One is
vulnerable when, as in "Surfacing", a commercial, mechanized,
superficial world, mostly called "Erica :, imposes its values on a
person belonging to the apparently free, post-colonial society in
And a protagonist is powerful in Atwood's fiction when, again as, in
" Surfacing" and also in the case of f Offered in " The Handmaid's
Tale", the ending, " Historical Notes " proves to be a possible means of
countering Offered's discourse of resistant existence and as such,
becomes a manifestation of reactionary attitude and complicity of the
future historians in the atrocities of a past regime.
"In each of these cases, the world-view gets distorted because of
reactionaries who either do not have courage to support a resistance
movement, or, are politically correct enough to seek to maintain status
The history of political orientation, social and ideological
indoctrination and manipulation of human emotions in both the colonized
and postcolonial societies maybe interpreted either way - any act can
become a crime to those who want stability and cannot tolerate any
disturbance while, to a resistance movement, even an individual's
awakening of awareness and consequent action are of vital importance in
the process of rewriting history and constructing a better future. And
as "The Handmaid's Tale, not even history is ever neutral.
It is precisely along these margins and borders of interpretations of
human existence that Atwood moves, a movement I intend to map in my
paper." (Dr. Debarati Bandyopadhyay)
"Fundamentalism or Traditional Islam?"
"Islam, I believe is a much misunderstood and much misrepresented
religion. It is so not only because the western media chooses to
misrepresent Islam but also because the followers of Islam have to a
certain extent either deliberately or ignorantly disregarded the
teachings of the Prophet Mohammed.
" Most Muslims in the non-Arabic speaking part of the world read the
Quaran in Arabic and since they do not understand the language, remain
ignorant of its contents - their knowledge of Islam comes largely from
what has been traditionally handed down from grandparents and parents.
In today's context, the powerful Islamic nations also play a large role
in interpreting Islam.
However, even those who read it in Arabic or in translation do so
with awe, respect and fear and these factors prevent them from venturing
into an analysis of its contents. These are some of the reasons why
today Islam has come to be associated purely with war and terrorism.
Islam means peace; the Prophet liberated slaves, paved the way for
women's liberation and brought unity among warring tribes.
"The Quran is not a reproduction of the Old testament as many believe
it to be but its contents reveal a moving away from Old Testament laws
of revenge to those of forgiveness and mercy.
"Rushdie's novel is not an attack on traditional Islam but it is a
criticism of fundamentalist representation of Islam." (Careema Jayaweera)
"The Many- Faceted Aspect of Post Colonial Literature (Shane Joseph's
" Redemption in Paradise"): "The Post Colonial has been a time of
testing the waters...but in most colonial literature, there is also an
unconscious cry for stability... Shane Joseph a new Sri Lankan writer
from Canada, has given us his first novel, " Redemption in
Paradise"...How much of the early postcolonial writing that emerged came
put of a complicated network of inherited and acquired physical and
mental characteristics, notions, superstitions and prejudices that had
already been soaked up in homes, schools and societies under colonial
What follows then is that post colonial literature blossomed because
of this thing called literary ability - the ability to handle hopes and
fears of the writer's own experiences and weave them into a story that
can be properly handled and understood. What we have had is a rapid
succession of literary forms with so many expressed or implied
standards, all coalescing with the writer's relations to a fast changing
George Orwell told of the break-down of the English language, but he
did not live to see how well the post colonial writers redeemed it.
English accepted and absorbed the great battalions of words that moved
across the West-literary works that carried an Indian-ness, a Sri
Lankan-ness, sopping the sorry air with phrases and new approaches: no
dead or dying metaphors, no verbal wooden legs, no pretentious diction,
no meaningless words.
India now speaks in a strong Indian voice. Here is new refreshment
and a refreshing vulgarity as well that has rocked the staid British
cradle!" (Carl Muller)
The three-day conference gave me an opportunity to mix and shoulder
myself with academics and great writers both from our country and the
giant India and discuss, argue and learn from them.
There were not only academics, but famous people - for instance,
writers (Tissa Abeysekera, Carl Muller), poets (Jean Arasanayagam,
Kamala Wijeratne, Premini Amarasinghe, teachers (Ranjit Wijekoon, Sandra
Fernando), Writers (Nimal Sanderatne, Jagath Kumarasinghe) silent
observers (Mrs.Senaka Bibile, Latif Allen), and journalist (Frances
A well-made short film made in the digital format in Thamil with
English subtitles was shown at the conference. The film titled "Piralyam"
(Upheaval) was appreciated by all. The visual and cinematic impact with
silences, pauses and metaphors, 'naturalistic' acting by common people
who suffered not only during the ethnic war but also during the recent
havoc agent the tsunami in the eastern part of the country and the
appropriate background music were all aesthetically presented. The film
is a symbolic comment on our times in the war-torn regions. I liked the
The filmmaker, Sumathy Sivamohan is an academic, actress and producer
of plays. Good show Sumathy.
I also liked very much the dramatic presentation of H.C.N. de
Lanerolle's memorable play of some six decades age, "Fifty -Fifty", a
political comedy depicting the State Council era. The play was
succinctly produced and directed by Lakshmi Samarakoon for the Trinity
College Dramatic Society. Congratulations. Jaliya Wijewardne, Barana
Waidyathilake, Heshika Deegla- wathura, Sumedha Kelegama,Heshan
Pethiyagoda, Sasjid Nasim and Jeevaka Somaratne - all boys spoke their
lines very well in consonance with the respective accents of the
characters concerned. Every one of them played his part well.
At the same time I was particularly enthused with the acting by
Barana Waidyathiake, who played the role of charlotte Sumanasekera.
Congratulations to the producer and the players.
Young talent from the hill capital
The Young Writers Association in Mahanuwara showed immense talent and
versatility as they presented a music-cum-poetry and prose writing. They
need a little notice and direction. About 10 of them read before an
attentive audience their creative work. Since Colombo does not have much
of the provincial artistic activities, it is nothing but fair to
introduce them to a wider reading public.