|Sunday, 11 April 2004|
Centenary of Leonard Woolf's arrival in Colombo :
Defining our modern cultural history
(Continued from last week)
Those who did not create but are part of the modern period continued
(VII) Martin Russell. Others followed Leonard Woolf from England and the West: H.C.P. Bell (though he arrived earlier). H.R. Freeman, Wilhelm Geiger, Martin Russell and Edith Ludowyk-Gyomroi.
Arriving in 1942, Martin Russell has an unbroken link with us. During this period he has projected abroad the 43 Group through his monograph on George Keyt, exhibitions, participation in seminars, appreciations of members of the 43 Group written for the press of this country, Consultancy with Sotheby's through whose auctions the work of the 43 Group have found a place in Collections throughout the world and with his excellent idea of the 43 Group Colombo London which continued his first response to us in '42 and is the first body to link culturally the two capitals. No one from England and the West has had so long a connection, a term his fellow Alumnus of King's Cambridge, E.M. Forster, might have used for this modern tale of two cities.
(VIII) Edith Ludowyk-Gyomroi.
When Edith Gyomroi, helped by Ernest Jones, arrived on our shores in 1938 as a refugee as Europe approached her longest night, she brought with her the new light of Psycho Analysis.
This alone gives her a permanent place not only in our medical-psychiatric history - though dynamic psychology especially psycho analysis may wish to distinguish itself from psychiatry - but also in the history of our humanities.
Constrained to part from her native Budapest after 1919, Edith Gyomroi's wanderings took her to Western Europe. Already aware of psycho analysis when quite young through her uncle Istvan Hollos, her training analysts were Otto Fenichel and Wilhelm Reich. And before fleeing Berlin and Europe as the menace of the 20th century approached she had the good fortune and great opportunity to meet Sigmund Freud in Vienna in 1922.
She was not only an analyst, a clinician whose diagnostic skill bordered on genius, but also a mind of exceptional brilliance and versatility who brought to Colombo Central European culture as well.
When she left Peradeniya and us in 1955 with E.F.C. Ludowyk whom she had married, the British Psycho Analytic Society and Institute of Psycho Analysis gained a valued analyst, Anna Freud a colleague, the Anna Freud Centre a training analyst.
They gained what we had lost: not only the only analyst we had but a well rounded, complete and exceptional human being of great probity and kindness.
When she left she left an imperishable memory of an analyst and human being who took with her all our dreams.
(IX) Historical, Economic, Social and Political Theories and Values:
There is a sense to 'culture' which makes such theories and the values which can go with them a part of a country's cultural achievements, traditions and heritage.
As one can hold that the literature of a country is part of that country's culture, universal suffrage and Parliamentary government which over centuries unrolled itself from Magna Carta and has been eloquently spoken and written of by many of England's writers some of whom are masters of the language, the Liberal Theory of State and Government and its associated values has not only a cultural matrix but might itself be considered a cultural achievement in some sense.
Ceylon as she then was received a part of this legacy in 1931 with the introduction of universal suffrage, and in 1947 with the introduction of Parliamentary government.
The introduction of Liberal Theory and values in Colombo though was the work not of our intelligentsia but of British imperial power.
In 1935 this English tradition was counterposed by another tradition of the west brought from London by the country's own young intellectuals: the ideas of Marx and Engels and their successors whose writings also embodying the historical experience of Europe since 1848.
But unlike the others who created our modern cultural period, these young intellectuals one of whom studied under Harold Laski did not themselves create these ideas.
Of the various forms of state and government set out by Aristotle and political theorists who followed in the history of European social thought, these are the two which have found expression with us in the modern period: the Liberal Theory created here in England and brought to us by the British and the Marxist Theory brought to us by our own intelligentsia but not created by them.
Part of this Marxist tradition which they brought with them was the on going debate within that tradition of the problem of minority languages and cultures which after Independence, 1948, became a major social-political issue.
No other trend within the country was as aware at the time, 1935, of the significance, importance and political weight of this issue as an historical problem which called for intellectually disciplined and rigorous thinking and argument.
How do we see the Marxist tradition of social thought founded in Colombo in 1935 in relation to our modern cultural history ?
If the introduction of the Western tradition of Karl Marx as also the thinker on the nature of history and historical 'praxis' had, during the period of our great cultural achievements, led, first within academia whose conception of history was factual scholarship and narration, and then to the emergence of writings on our historiography as part of our cultural achievements, as it could have, we might have considered this tradition's contribution as a contribution to our humanities and thus a cultural achievement as well.
Sadly this did not happen. Instead those writing Ceylon history turned to ethnicity: had our intelligence expressed itself through the history of Ceylon history, when it could have, by the mid sixties when the Contemporary Period of our Modern Cultural History was drawing to a close, our historiography which is our intelligence, our moral and ethical self, our psyche would have merited the international recognition which is due to our cultural achievements of the Contemporary Period.
(X) 43 Group Colombo London:
(i) The first and only cultural body whose work links and draws its members from the two cities, it is one of our most powerful centres of intelligence and sensibility.
(ii) The idea of forming such a body belongs to Martin Russell.
(iii) Formed in '87, this Group, in association with us, held the 43 Group exhibition, Lyre Room, RFH (Royal Festival Hall), South Bank, in June '87, which we have been informed drew an estimated attendance of 34,000.
(xi) We have finally to refer to ourselves:
(i) Ars Zeylanica '85 Purcell Room, RFH (Royal Festival Hall), South Bank, is the first ever occasion when oru cultural achievements was presented in the RFH (complex).
(ii) Followed by Ars Zeylanica '86, '87, Purcell Room, RFH, and Illustrated Seminar on Sinhala Music in '88 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, these projections here of our Contemporary Period was the first attempt to net out our modern cultural history and do so also as a spelt out thesis.
(iii) Sinhala Music, '88, ICA, was the first ever seminar here on Sinhala music.
(iv) Rohan de Saram's composition Kuveni Asnaya which he played on the cello at the Seminar on Sinhala Music '88, ICA, his interactions with classical Sinhala dance, in the person of Vipuli Samaratunga, and the Sinhala Kandyan drum, played by Piyasara Silpadhipathy, which later led to compositions including the piano, at Ars Zeylanica '85, '86 & '87 are new explorations.
(v) Display of the work of the 43 Group in the QEH (Queen Elizabeth Hall) foyer in '85 as part of Ars Zeylanica '85, Purcell Room, RFH, was the first ever occasion when the work of the 43 Group was seen on the South Bank.
(vi) 43 Group exhibition, Lyre Room, RFH, June '87 is the first ever exhibition of the Group on the South Bank.
(vii) The 43 Group and the occasion of the Illustrated Lecture of April '99 on one of its members, Ivan Peries, placed within the intelligence of England and the West when Senake Bandaranayake concluded this Lecture saying 'The 43 Group will receive recognition'.
(viii) Illustrated Seminar on George Claessen, Nov. '00, which concluded with Denis Bowen's magisterial "George Claessen's work should be in the Tate Gallery", the first ever occasion when a member of the 43 Group was considered by competent judgement to be worthy of a place in this country's leading Gallery for modern art which is also an internationally leading Gallery.
Produced by Lake House