Dilatato Corde 2:1
January - June, 2012



Pietà Lanka
(Click to access the video on YouTube)

Artist: Kingsley Goonatilleke

One of the top-most artists in Sri Lanka,Kingsley Goonatilleke supervised the reconstruction of the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy after it was bombed by the Tamil Tigers. He was also involved in the restoration of the Temple’s artwork.  

Medium: Brick and cement




Jesus and Mary as Portrayed by Buddhist Artists
Part V: Pietà Lanka

(The same introduction is included on all five videos in which Father Pieris describes Jesus and Mary as portrayed by Buddhist artists. It lasts one minute and forty-five seconds.)

These artistic works of Buddhists interpreting Christianity are based on a missiological principle which is the contrary of the traditional missiology. In the traditional missiology, the Church tells the Buddhist who Christ is. We do the opposite; we ask the Buddhists who Christ is. They tell us who Christ is, and in that dialogue they tell us not only who Christ is for them, but also who Christ is for us in Asia.This is a kind of dialogue with artists who believe in another religion but find Christ as an excellent object of artistic appreciation and of religious devotion.All these people who have made these depictions of Christ and Mary in murals, in clay, or in paintings have given us a message: if we want to speak of Christ, even among ourselves, there is a language to be used. And these Buddhists have given us the language.

The artist has called this “Pietà Lanka 1989.” That was one of the saddest years in the history of Sri Lanka. The Indian army was fighting the Tamil rebels in the north, rather Tamil revolutionaries, and the Sinhalese army was fighting the Sinhalese revolutionaries in the south. The conflict was between the army and the youth revolutionaries.

The conflict is shown is the background. There is a military tank and a lamp-post. The military tank represents the army, and the lamppost represents the youth militants. Because when they killed someone, they tied that person to a lamp-post and tagged the crime: who did it; why. They put a label. So the lamp-post became the symbol of the insurrection, both in the north by the Tamil and the Sinhalese youth in the south.

This is the background, the conflict  which he presents [in] the shape of Mother Lanka, the youth dying in her arms, and sees in them Jesus in the arms of Mary. It’s again a Christian interpretation of that event. He doesn’t care who killed whom; they are dead. They are victims of something, and they are in the arms of Mary, Mother Lanka.

But there is a little punch to this. This lamp-post is in the form of a cobra. You see here the cobra joins [the statue from below]. The reason is in the Buddhist tradition, the cobra is an evil force, no doubt about it;  [but] the Buddha tamed the evil force [so  that when, during his meditation, it began to rain and there was mud all over, the cobra] raised him up from the [mud by coiling beneath him, with its hood protecting him from rain-]- water.  Which means, this evil force, if it is tamed, can serve us.

So here the artist is trying to give a deep message. If you give the just demands of these youth, north and south, instead of killing them, you tame them, and this force can become a help to Sri Lanka.

But a military government can never be tamed. It will always be like that.

A student from one of these areas of conflict came and said it was very significant that this military tank is pointed toward the chapel. 

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