Outcasts of the System: artists in sri lanka

Posted: October 14, 2010 in Uncategorized

pic by camiloo

What do I see myself doing for the rest of my life that’ll keep me happy?
Assuming money and status aren’t determining factors.

Lots of love out to everyone reading the nonsense I write, the appreciation helps.

I’m stressed out these days, man. Growing up is just as sucky as my melodramatic 20th birthday woes made it out to be. But my refuge in writing in times of concentration-camp-like college has got me thinking.

What do writers do? Or what do you do if you want to make music? What do you do, if you just want to sit around and paint canvas for people?
Why do artists seemingly have to struggle?
There is no clear system here supporting people who want to do something besides medicine, architecture, engineering, management, a desk job at a company.

The system just supports the people who either conveniently like doing one of those limited things or are made to conform to one of those options because being out of the system has the feel of uncertainty.

What if you want to make movies? Record an album? Write a book? Make and sell art?
I can already feel the uneven ground of those ideas – you’d have to start from a blind dream, and just vaguely make ‘connections’ by going to the right events and meeting the right people, and just hope you’ll get lucky.
What are you talking about! I can already hear some indignant old person cry. Those are just mad hatter dreams, get down to earth, child.
Why? I think it’s unfair that dreams like that aren’t fostered and cared for by a thorough system, while different ones are; aren’t they worth nurturing? Maybe if there was an intelligent educational and graduation system to support the arts and entertainment careers, those careers would be just as known for money and prestige too.

It’s just that they’re ignored. Painters alongside vihara maha devi park, some obscure artist in a scarce crowd at a lionel wendt exhibition, a musician recording his work with a box guitar and a 4.0 digi cam, a writer scribbling drafts of a budding novel in their scruffy journal.

The artists are on the periphery, looking in. They have to work it all out by themselves. Inside are the people in smart suits behind mahogany tables and speaking in similar dialects, working for money and good names and big houses, interdependent and flourishing collectively.

Why are those jobs treated more importantly than the job of an artist? Okay, painting or dancing or singing doesn’t take seven years of slavery at a faculty like medicine does, fair enough. Doctors save lives, teachers teach our children, architects create our homes – so in comparison, artists just entertain, so meh?
That is a fair point. But think of a world without artists then. Without that new-book smell from the pages of your favourite novel, without that beautiful perfect song on the radio that completely understands what you’re going through, without a piece of dramatic theatre to move you, without that amazing cinematic story unfolding on your computer screen. Don’t any of those things matter? Aren’t some of those the very things that take us away from the mundane things we do behind desks and in AC’d offices?

I find it condescending and naieve when people roll their eyes or facepalm, when a person just says, I’m not going to do accounting or CIMA or something in a university with textbooks and exams, I’m going to be an artist. I’m going to write. I’m going to sing. I’m going to film.
Why are those ideas assumed to be grandiose and frivolous over here? I think these career options seem ‘risky’ only because of a lack of system in SL’s artistic arena, so people are pressured into choosing a more ‘safe’ path. Even if it is risky, even if you don’t make it huge and sell a best seller or go platinum or make a blockbuster, you would have been happier during that course of trying than you would ever be doing something you have no love for like printing a flowchart and explaining it to a room full of grumpy men in black ties. You would have expressed yourself as an invidual more than any of your peers inside the system are ever allowed to.

People get scared when I suggest I’m going to do something easy and fun with my life, as art is for me. Sometimes it feels like society has conditioned itself into a rut of a thought: that most certainly, if you’re having too much fun while growing up, you’re not doing it right.

  1. Gazala Anver says:

    The pursuit of happiness is never-ending and sometimes, it seems as if that is the only thing worth chasing. Screw norms, what matters is understanding yourself better and being happy. And one way to do both is Art, either writing, painting, making music, whatever rocks your boat. 🙂

  2. AmethystSoul says:

    When I was little and people asked me what I wanted to be I would say ‘author’, because to me books were magic, and what kid doesn’t want to be a magician? And I remember most of them would laugh and say, why, don’t you want to become a doctor, or nurse, or whatever.
    That’s what a lot of creative kids get from the authorities. ‘Wrong answer, try again.’ It’s gotten to a point where most will put the true love of their life on the backburner by choice, just to get by.

  3. Azrael says:

    Nicely put.

    Artistically talented people should be able to pursue them freely. Then artistically challenged people like me can happily admire & enjoy their handiwork.

    I think it’s the survival instinct that pushes people towards more safe jobs, meaning more money, leading to a more comfortable lie style.

    Also people not from an artistic family background has trouble accepting that bohemian life style.

    If you dad is an artist, he’ll be pretty happy if you become one too, but if your dad’s a doctor then he’ll think your bat shit crazy 🙂

    Good luck with your artistic pursuits. Believe me if you put out a book there’ll be plenty of readers.


    • makuluwo says:

      Haha thanks about the book! 😉 It’s annoying how lots of people assume being an artist is just a ‘vague unrealistic hippy thing’.. the hobo bohemians throwing splotches on canvas and calling it art make the serious hard working ones look bad.

  4. dee says:

    i know right 😦 my sis was telling me in Austria, u get random ppl in the town squares drawing, painting, making music, its amazing! i suppose ppl have more time to be creative when you have a way of getting food to your stomach. its all economics.

  5. Seesaw says:

    I suppose it’s because of the insecurity and uncertainty attached to it. And a degree or qualification in the ‘normal’ fields always gives one a fallback position.

    The arty activities are always grouped as ‘hobbies’ but how cool would it be to make a living out of it as well? Look at the blogosphere, there are a crazy bunch of talented people just here in Lanka.I think we don’t pursue it actively enough. Should try though!

  6. Chavie says:

    Nice post!

    It’s all in the economics man. If you find a good market for your work, then good. All that money’s got to come from somewhere right? And the thing about art in Sri Lanka is that it’s seriously undervalued. I mean, to hear that Shehan Karunatilaka only made 50000 bucks selling what was probably the best Sri Lankan novel in ages is just… heartbreaking. 😦

  7. that fat bastard says:

    this episode of the view was sponsored by the sunflowers. stay tuned for next weeks episode ‘being positive isnt all that good after all’, where we discuss sexually transmitted diseases among the homosexual care bear populous

  8. […] at Cerebral Ramblings describes how the students pursuing creative arts and literature in Sri Lanka are considered an outcasts of […]

  9. sheena says:

    Sri Lanka is the most beautiful country in the world. It would be perfect if we had some honest leaders!

  10. […] I’d been running away from the reality of that for this long, because as I mentioned in an older post, just-writing is one of those things you’re discouraged to get into over here. Because it […]

  11. Humaira says:

    One of my long term goals is to open an animation studio here in SL, when that day come, I will be hiring a hell of a lot of artists from here. And that will begin the era of the artists!
    I know its crazy, but it will happen!

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