Remembering Death and Mourning the Loss of Innocence

Thursday 21 December 2023

Perera, Sasanka. In Violence and the burden of memory: Remembrance and Erasure in Sinhala Consciousness, 107-148. New Delhi:Orient Blackswan, 2016.

This book chapter is taken from Sasanka Perera’s book ‘Violence and the burden of memory: Remembrance and Erasure in Sinhala Consciousness’ and explores memory after violence, focusing on Sinhala memory of loss and pain resulting from the violence in the south between state armed and police forces and the insurrectionist political party JVP. He addresses this memory in the contexts of the construction of monuments and memorials through collective and individual efforts in the public and private sphere, and in the context of intervention by visual artists. The chapter I chose focuses on monuments that centre mourning the loss of innocence, in contrast to war monuments that glorify heroism and death. Perera draws a comparison between two monuments in Sri Lanka that memorialise the violent deaths of civilians: the Shrine of Innocents, funded by the state, and the Monuments of the Disappeared, funded by a civil society organisation. He examines the poetics and politics of these two monuments and examines the relation between the political motivations backing monuments, and how monuments endure and last. He also compares these monuments to heroic monuments, noting how heroic monuments were at less of a risk of physical disappearance and neglect. Perera concludes that although monuments can be understood as a way ‘society remembers their past and formulates its present identity’,(Brooks, 1997) this is not the case in the Sri Lankan context, with monuments playing little to no role in how society formulates the current state.

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