War memorial on wheels


Snapped this bus with military teemed graphics while the war was still going on. At first glance it looks like other military themed vehicle graphics on Sri Lankan buses. There’s the usual blurred edge montage of military motifs in the familiar the third world Photoshop style. With the end of fighting this sort of artwork carries a further meaning.

The critical difference is in the imagery. There are no images of fancy military hardware like Apaches and Tornados. The focus is on the people who risked it all in the front. The only technology is an armoured personal carrier (most definitely a locally made Unicorn/Unibuffel) which won’t win prizes for looks.

War art bus Colombo Sri Lanka

I doubt the folks at Anura Advertising (a major producer of Colombo’s vehicle graphics – including this one) were concerned about such trivial details. Possibly the client simply picked this from a stock of pre existing designs maybe without a second thought. Whatever the case academics would describe its imagery with terms like “outsider” and “Folk art”. Made by people uneducated in post-post modern cross references. For the rest of us in the Sri Lankan blogosphere it is just another cheesy splash of colour in Colombo traffic.

Yet this specimen is a memorial. In a similar spirit to bus shelters built by relatives/neighbours of fallen soldiers you might spot on the A6 to Damulla. Or the small rural roads named after corporals or lieutenants. Essentially the nameless faceless behind the rounded casualty figures droned from the TV while we waited for cricket highlights. The demographic who depends on buses like these would no doubt have friend/relative/neighbours among the fallen and the wounded.

Memories of war time life will inevitably recede into the haze of history. We will even get used to life without the LTTE terrorism. The fate of veterans from two generations of war is yet to be written. They are a demographic that politicians will use and abuse as politicians have through out human history. Vehicle graphics like this might either fade away with the paint. Or become hijacked by tribal madness. Or fall somewhere between. Like in a brain dump blog post such as this.

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