Friday, August 26, 2016

The search for national identity

Symbols, colours, anthems: are these what shape our identity? We have older ones on flags, newer ones have sprung up on stickers, the shapes change; do identities change?

We have people who hail from different faiths and cultures, how do we weld them together? There are people pondering weighty questions of constitutions while I have been playing with symbols.

Ceylon's (and later Sri Lanka's) flag features a lion, the LTTE had a Tiger. Funnily, neither animal is native to this land, how did they come to symbolise people? Why different symbols for different people? Why not a common one that stands for us all?

An older Ceylonese flag featured an elephant, an animal that is native but now that the elephant has been captured by a political party it is probably unsuitable.

We must ponder this question deeply. What is it that defines us as people? What is it that makes us different from our neighbours?

It is our food.

We are what we eat and on this island our food is very different. What is the essence of this difference?

It is the coconut tree. We use coconut liberally in all our food; grated, squeezed or extracted as oil. The tree itself is our tree of life; there is nothing of the tree that is wasted; the leaves are woven to thatch, the husks make coir that is fashioned to rope, mattresses and a host of others, the shells are used as receptacles or as charcoal, the trunk yields a hardy wood; even the ekels can be used as brooms.

Fittingly, for an island people, nothing symbolises us better than this tree. It is common to us all, let this be our new symbol.

We are different. We are unique. We are the people of the coconut.

The valiant, virile Island people.

We are the Pol People.

You have to admit, it has a certain ring to it. it has been used before, too....