After 400+ years of colonialism, 40 years of unstable independence, 30 years of civil war, we are finally free, but we don't have a landmark or monument to commemorate this. Do we need one?
As a country we are reconnecting with the world, improving living standards, soon to be entering upper-middle income status and above, expanding opportunities for all citizens, and building a new generation of innovators and entrepreneurs who will be the future leaders and visionaries of this country. This is a very special moment, with the whole future ahead for us to craft our destiny. This however is only strengthened and accelerated with a clear vision, something that galvanises the population into action for a common purpose, and becomes a symbol of unity and collective strength. Looking at precedent, every great nation that has come out of adversity has aimed to crystalize the sense of national identity in a piece of monumental architecture, such as the Triumphal Arches in Ancient Greece and Rome, or in modern times the Rockefeller Centre during the great Depression in the US or the Petronas Towers as a new branding piece for an emerging Malaysia. We are an emerging Sri Lanka, and we currently do not have anything that can showcase our new spirit and self-belief to the world.
When people think of Sri Lanka, they are most likely today still going to refer to our colonial past, beautiful beaches, tea, and warm hospitality. I’m sorry, but we are so much more than that. We are the people who studied under moonlight during the power-cuts to receive the international scholarship, the people who overcame terrorism and have set an example for peace and rehabilitation afterwards, the people who brought the world one of the first modern female heads of state, the technicians and experts behind the majority of rebranded platforms that are currently serving in western democracy’s with no reference to our skilled people behind the innovation etc etc. We are so much more, and we are only now starting to let the sun shine on our potential for it to grow confidently without limitation.
We need to embrace this opportunity as a country and not let it pass us, and having something that represents this new future, physically, in the centre of the capital of the nation, could help be the visual catalyst. It can also rebrand how the world sees us, as a modern, emerging, sophisticated and visionary country, ready to play our role on the global stage as we grow stronger, and that we also have ideas and ability to share in solving some of the world’s toughest challenges. This is our belief. Symbolism is important, words are important, and the narrative is important, because that is what wins hearts and minds, and an inspired child is unstoppable.
Another way of looking at this question is embodied in the following quote:
“it’s all in the way that you think about people that often determines their behaviour”
This was said by Bill Strickland, Founder and Principal of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in Pittsburgh US, with regards to seeing infinite possibility in all children, and instilling that belief in them, thereby giving them confidence, raising their sense of self-belief, leading to far greater results than any traditional system could have created. We have to change how we see ourselves to change the country, and our belief is that symbolism in the form of Architecture at a national scale can contribute to this impact, especially at this point in Sri Lanka’s history.
So how would we pay for this? This would definitely not be a priority for state funding. We believe there is a great opportunity for private sector to develop such a monument in the form of a commercial centre, centered around public space. The space would be accessible for all public, with the monument being a hotbed of technical innovation, green technologies, job creation, hosting many new and upcoming businesses, cultural events, civic activities, markets, and so on. This really can become a highly diverse centre that changes our experience of Colombo and each other, where all can experience the benefits irrespective of social status or wealth.
The opportunities are endless, and we are driven to see how we can find a solution to this question. We believe the nation needs a central monument to commemorate the future, instilled with joy and hope. We want to inspire the future leaders. We need all people believing in themselves to elevate the status of this country, and that starts with self-belief. We need a symbol for that, and are doing our best to make this a reality.