Pictures by Reza Akram, Written by Yasas Ratnayake
The world today is a hectic place. The hand of commerce and the buzz of technology drive our lives and shape our futures. Sri Lanka is a different place with different people; much different to what it was centuries ago. 3 centuries of colonialism and a bloody civil war of 30 years, Sri Lankans are struggling to define their identities; weathered and tired of strife, and looking for inspiration.
Project Angampora is a small yet significant initiative that aspires to make Sri Lankans aware of our heritage. Renowned sociologist Margaret Mead famously exclaimed, “Never doubt a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Small steps taken by people with great intentions have kept the ancient art of Angampora alive through centuries of colonial persecution. These efforts have preserved a once glorious heritage of Sri Lanka from dying out.
We want to take a step further and help bring this art to people around the world. There is much Sri Lanka can offer the world through unique cultural assets such as Angampora. These facets of the art are untouched and waiting to be discovered by the world. An imposing art of combat, a sophisticated science of medicine and neurology, and fascinating repositories of ancient knowledge encompasses the art of Angampora. Not only is the art an impressive testament to the ingenuity and power of human beings, it is a rare relic of our history that has withstood the tests of time and the tyrannies of evil men.
Have we compared where our art stands against the likes of popular martial arts such as Kung Fu or Capoeira? We haven’t because we haven’t managed to arouse the interest of a world that is eagerly waiting to find out new information. More disappointingly, Sri Lankans themselves have no knowledge of the art. It isn’t taught to children in schools or universities, and neither has it appeared as a subject in social scientific literature and academia. This is a result of the outlawing of a once vibrant and broadly practiced indigenous discipline.
Project Angampora is an effort to help expose that rich history to the world. We will be combing the country for evidence of the ancient beginnings of this art and examining untouched archives and museum artifacts to show the world of its origins. We will be taking breathtaking images of Angam fighters and exposing a proud heritage to our own people. We want the world to know. And we want Sri Lankans to be proud of what we have protected.
What we envision is that we can help create awareness about this art and take it to the world. Why does our country need to be known for a bloody past and not its wonderful treasures? Why are we still looking for new inspiration when we have something valuable and priceless within our grasp? Sri Lankans have a duty to protect our heritage and generate awareness of a part of our culture that is fast becoming extinct.
Await more information about the project and more articles that will illuminate our readers of Angampora and its ways.