Have you heard about the Yaka Anti-Defamation League (YADL)?
twenty years ago, an academic by the name of Bruce Kapferer, who had
done some fieldwork in Sri Lanka during or soon after the bheeshayana
(the UNP-JVP Period of Terror, 1988-89), mentioned in passing that the
word ‘Yaka’ was used for ‘the lowest form of beings’. This was during a
lecture at Harvard University. If memory serves, NurYalman, another
Anthropologist, raised questions of ontology and Kapferer, to my mind,
side-stepped and not very deftly either.
‘Yaka’ is a misunderstood term. It has multiple meanings. It refers
to a collective and a history, a way of life and a disavowal, is a
vilifying term and one embraced with pride. My friend Hemantha from
Pelmadulla, for example, whenever we meet each other (which is not very
often) is wont to exclaim ‘Yako!’ Spontaneously. And then he would say
‘mama harineda?’ (Am I correct, am I not?). I remember a conversation we
had on the subject of yakas.
Neither of us had purchased the story of Aryan colonization. We both
felt we were more ‘Yak’ than anything else. We felt that it was the
Yak-element, more than anything else, that gives Sinhala Buddhist
civilization its character and resilience, not to mention a largeness of
heart to embrace difference and even invader (in whatever garb) in ways
that few societies have or do. And that goes back to the
LankavatharaSutta, the civilized treatment of Sita by Ravana (as opposed
to the crude way Rama’s brother Lakshman treated Ravana’s sister), the
way Kuveni treated Vijaya as opposed to how Vijaya treated her, the
encounter with Arahat Mahinda, the respect accorded to Elara, and the
entire set of interactions with the Europeans.
Did I hear someone say ‘myths and legends’? Well, there are myths
that are presented as fact and facts that are mythologized through
selective and creative vilification. That’s a different debate and if
anyone wants to get into it, we can talk about a lot of things that are
faith-based but recounted as really-happened facts.
There is ‘Sihala’ or ‘Siv-hela’ or ‘the 4 helas’, namely Yaksha, Naga,
Raksha and Deva. Ceylon, in this sense (a corruption of ‘Sinhale’ after
‘Sivhela’) is the more appropriate named-name for the island and its
people. There are enough and more ‘Yaka’ stories and if history is also
written in folk story and folk song, then it is not inappropriate for my
friend Hemantha to greet me as ‘Yako!’ and for me to respond likewise,
just as it is strange and uneducated of Bruce Kapferer to offer the
kinds of readings as he has.
In any event, the whole Yak business has got totally out of hand with
the ‘Grease Yaka’ phenomenon. So much so that it now appears that the
Yakas have got really upset. A few days ago I received a Press Release,
authored by the YADL (Yaka Anti-Defamation League), headquarted,
appropriately, in Ritigala.
YADL Press Release
In this minute of arrant tumult in the heavens below, hell above, and
earth betwixt, it has come to our notice that Yakas have of recent been
inculpated in a spate of physical and metaphysical phenomena aka kolama
across our island nation.
We must assume it surely be a typographical error, misspoken perhaps
for Greasy Yankees or other yuck, long known to slip in and out of air,
ear and eye space, indulging in such preemptive hysteria of one moment
psy-ops the next sycophancy.
Yaka, long the revered ancestors of the people of this isle, have
underscored its basic rhythms and techniques of work and war and words,
helping build great channels and configurations, defeating sundry
imperialist invasions, esp. post-1505, and cussing the rest of them.
It is only in recent times, since the polar-reversing events of 1815
to be precise, that Yakas became Deities, and Demons became Yaka.
We hope the korporate media and their dizzy drones will desist from
further kalumny that can only evoke righteous requital, let alone
ginijala, selesma, bhuta and vevulum aka fire, migraine, fleeting
madness and a trembling.
We are not a minority. We are the world.
We seek not equal opportunity, cos we are not all equally
Signed by: Visvakarma, Riri, NonchiAkka, Kalu, Suniyam, Lenchini&Jasaya,
Gara, Mahason& 18 others.
Yaka Anti-Defamation League (YADL)
I don’t think you’ve heard the last from the Yakas. And I think
that’s a good thing.