Roar's Top Twelve Picks For 2018

Roar Media
December 31, 2018

We have had an incredible year for stories here at Roar, covering many unexplored facets of Sri Lanka. Our culture, identity, and historical pieces were particularly popular, along with a touch of humour — before the Constitutional crisis put a dampener on everyone’s mood towards the end of the year. Here are a few of our best pieces, based on what our readers enjoyed, and what the Roar editorial team  loved working on.

The first six are ranked according to page views, while the rest represent our editorial favourites.

01. Portuguese-Sri Lankan Surnames And Their Meanings

A traditional Portuguese-Sri Lankan wedding in the Batticaloa area.
Photo courtesy: natgeotourism.com

An agreement made in the 1500s between King Buveneka Bahu from the Kotte Kingdom and the Portuguese resulted in his grandson—Prince Dharmapala—getting a Catholic education. Dharmapala’s conversion heralded sweeping changes in Sri Lanka’s social landscape as the Portuguese embarked on a mission to convert the local populace. This piece explored the popular Portuguese-Sri Lankan surnames that came about as a result of this cultural melange.

02. Five Annoying Things Sri Lankans Do When They Go Abroad

From converting currencies to complaining about the lack of spice in food, you can spot a Sri Lankan abroad from a mile away.

You can take us out of Sri Lanka, but you can’t take Sri Lanka out of us. This article is a short list of five quintessentially Sri Lankan quirks that become obvious when we travel overseas.

03. Child Sexual Exploitation In Sri Lanka: An Unaddressed Issue

Children in the sex and tourism trade are often overlooked—and taboo—subjects. Photo credit: Roar Media/Christian Hutter

Nearly impossible to track given the lack of statistics, child sexual exploitation is a crucial issue. Child rights activist Milani Salpitikorala spoke to us about the lack of a uniform child protection system in the country.

04. “Mehe Varen!” Or How The British Learnt To Speak Sinhala

An extract from the book, which covered a variety of situations.

There’s nothing like a good phrase book to learn the local tongues — which is perhaps what the British had in mind when this book was first published in Colombo in 1897. Translated from a Tamil phrase book titled Inga-va! (Come here!), the books were full of helpful snippets for colonial tea plantation owners to summon their local ‘servants’.

05. The Changing Streets Of Slave Island: In Pictures

Once popular for colonial architecture, and street food such as kodal babath, Slave Island is rapidly gentrifying as it is being razed to make way for the newer, shinier structures of modern Colombo. This photo essay explored the area’s changing face.

06. Welle Kollo: Beach Boys As They See Themselves

Sri Lanka’s ‘beach boys’ have a reputation for swindling female tourists. This article explored the issue through their perspective, and provided a glimpse of what life is like for the ‘welle kollo’ down South.

07. The Real Line-Room Experience — Through The Eyes Of An Estate Worker

The image of a quintessential Sri Lankan tea-plucker: smiling, hospitable and synonymous with holidays in the hills. However, behind this seemingly cheerful veneer is a 200-year-old story of toil and struggle that the estate community has been subjected to since colonial times. We visited a tea estate and spoke to some tea pluckers about the conditions in which they produce one of the country’s chief exports.

08. Talking People Out Of Harm: The People Volunteers Behind Suicide Prevention In Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has had a high rate of suicide for several years. It also has several groups of dedicated professionals who volunteer their time to listen to people who feel compelled to end their lives.

09. Remembering Dr. Cyril Ponnamperuma: One Of Sri Lanka’s Most Noteworthy Scientists

Cyril Ponnamperuma was a scientist who was best known for his stance in the origin of life debate. His academic endeavours took him around the world: from Chennai to study philosophy to Berkeley to read for a PhD in chemistry, and to NASA as an exobiologist piggybacking on the Apollo and Voyager missions. However, it was at the University of London’s Birkbeck College that Ponnamperuma started musing over life’s beginnings. We commemorated his legacy in this profile.

10. From The Dutch To The Digital Age: The Story Of The Font

This year’s annual conference on typography focused on the shared history of typography between Sri Lanka and the Netherlands. Sri Lanka recorded its history on ola palm-leaf manuscripts for centuries, until the Dutch introduced the printing press in  1750.

11. Living On A Remote Coral Island: Life In Delft

Two hours from Jaffna town is Delft, an arid, rocky island that is home to approximately 5,000 people in the northern peninsula. Delft’s allure is in its utter remoteness, and how untouched it is by modern amenities. The island feels idyllic, which is one of the many things that attracts tourists. However, life here isn’t easy or picture perfect. Here’s why.

12. The Gardener That Grows His Own Food In The Heart Of Colombo

A little plot of land in the heart of Kollupitiya is more than just your typical food garden, and Ranjit Seneviratne is anything but some sort of hippie tree-hugger. While the garden started off as an average organic food garden, it has now transcended that stage into what is nearly a self-sufficient biodynamic system unto itself.

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