• ‘The Monk and the Peasant:’ An homage to Singhalese culture

    Book author Tilak Hettige and Sri Lankan Ambassador to the Philippines Aruni Ranaraja

    Book author Tilak Hettige and Sri Lankan Ambassador to the Philippines Aruni Ranaraja

    Culture, religion and tradition—once the backbone of everyday life— are inevitably put in the background if not forgotten, as commercialization and globalization become the leading factor of human existence.

    In the midst of the global population living fast-paced lives where snapped photographs of even the most mundane of things are shared to a vast audience over social media, Tilak Hettige, a Manila-based Sri Lankan-born photographer and book author gives a nostalgic glimpse of that time when culture, religion and tradition were the central cogitation of everyday living.

    In his coffee table book titled The Monk and the Peasant launched early this month, Hettige takes his readers to a visual journey through the last few existing traditional Singhalese villages where community life is still deeply ingrained in religious and traditional practices.

    The Monk and the Peasant is a beautiful step back from today’s fast-paced modern global culture, paying homage to Singhalese culture and tradition that somehow is parallel to other customs in the world, including Filipino culture.

    “Many Filipinos and Sri Lankans who have been living in the Philippines do not know about the background of all these things,” Hettige told The Manila Timesat the sidelines of the book launch in Makati last week.

    Hettige, who has been living in the Philippines for almost two decades, said The Monk and the Peasant can bring Filipino and Sri Lankan communities together.

    Having experienced traditional village life while he was a young boy in a small town in Sri Lanka, Hettige said Filipino and Singhalese communities are similar in many aspects.

    Just like the Philippines, religion also played an important role in Singhalese villagers’ lives.

    “[In these traditional Singhalese villages] the people and the monks pretty much survive side by side,” Hettige explained.

    Also a member of the faculty of the Philippine Center for Creative Imaging (PCCI), Hettige captured the beauty of living in a traditional Singhalese village through his splendid photography skills.

    Originally published as a textbook written by J.B. Disanayake in 1993, The Monk and the Peasant then had very few photos and sketches portraying Sri Lankan village life.

    After the two came to know each other and eventually became good friends, the idea of giving The Monk and the Peasant new life through vivid photographs came into fruition.

    “I am very fond of his [Disanayake] writing style. I have always dreamt of writing about my village stories,” Hettige related.

    He said he knew exactly where to find images for Disanayake’s The Monk and the Peasant so both decided to incorporate the writer’s text and his photos to produce a coffee table book.

    Hettige’s other books include Saffron Robes: A Photogenic Essay on Buddhist Monks, Tilaka: The Spiritual Third Eye, and New Eyes: An Inner Vision to Photography.


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