Tigers Don’t Live In Ceylon
Tigers Don’t Live In Ceylon
41 X 41″ Acrylic on canvas, 2013
British Ceylon, like so many other places, has been erased from the maps of history, no longer printed on our scholastic globes or atlases, existing only in obscure collections of dusty Encyclopedia Britannica in your grandparents attic. They know what Ceylon is. Depending on your age, you may have heard of it as well.
Surely this instageneration doesn’t know that Sri Lanka used to be called Ceylon. For most of us, thats what its always been. Its ironic, considering we’re so socially “connected”. Thanks to Nicki Minaj and a catchy punchline, the island has become part of pop culture in recent years, but light is being shed in the wrong places, because there is still darkness. Yes, some of the most exotic and beautiful women in the world come from Sri Lanka, but thats not where they call home. You see, tigers don’t live in Ceylon. They live in Tamil Eelam, and the British Empire, like so many places, erased it.
In June of 1799, Sir Hugh Cleghorn, the first British Colonial Secretary, wrote to the british government the following regarding a paradise off the east coast of India:
” Two different nations from very ancient period have divided between them the possession of the island. First the Sinhalese, inhabiting the interior of the country in its Southern and Western parts, and secondly the Tamils, who possess the Northern and Eastern Districts. These two nations differ entirely in their religion, language, and manners.”
By 1815, British Ceylon was established as a colony of the empire. Eighteen years later, in 1833, British Ceylon was merged for “administrative” reasons, so that the empire could conduct business more efficiently. This merging forced two completely separate and different civilizations to coexist as one, for convenience. In 1948, the British left, giving Ceylon its Independence, and leaving political control in the hands of the Sinhalese majority. In 1972 they rebranded it Sri Lanka, and the Tamil people were left out.
Sixty five years of war has ensued, and the tigers still fight, because it doesn’t matter what the ink says on the map, the land is home, and can’t be renamed, merged, repackaged or forgotten. This is the ugly truth about British colonization, and Ceylon/Sri Lanka/Tamil Eelam is just one example. This same theme runs deep like an artery throughout the middle east, central europe, south america, everywhere and back around in loops along the same trade routes they sent the royal navy.
The Tamil Tigers are the military force of the Tamil people fighting for their independence in present day northern Sri Lanka. The United States lists them as a terrorist organization at the behest of the Sri Lankan government. What they don’t tell you is that they also have Judicial, Financial, and Economic systems in place, and can exist as a complete autonomous country with a rich and ancient history, language, culture, and territorial homeland.
The world watches while one of the oldest surviving classical civilizations is eradicated. We should know better…Tiger’s don’t live in Ceylon. They never have, and they never should. Hopefully this sheds some light where it has been kept dark, dusts off some of the buildup of history, and brings these issues to the surface.