© 2017 Sam Wood

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No One Cuts Me With Impunity

The title is a translation of the latin phrase 'Nemo me impune lacessit' which was the motto of the regiment my Great grandfather belonged to. This work is an examination of my genealogical involvement with colonialism. 

After the funeral of my Grandfather, during the wake, we put up all the photographs we could find of him in the kitchen. Boxes and boxes of old photographs were brought out. There were dust caked pictures from a life which I realised I knew very little about; pictures from all over the world; incomprehensible transmissions from the past. One in particular stood out. It was a photograph taken in 1972 as my Grandfather was leaving Sri Lanka, where he had managed a tea plantation. Surrounded by his workforce he was the only white male grinning out amongst a sea of sombre faces. Shocked by this image, I wondered about what kind of world my Grandfather had come from.

 

The picture below is of my Grandfather's 'Arrival' it was taken to commemorate his promotion to the role of plantation manager in 1957. 

 

This photograph however, is more sinister than the frowns of the first. 

Why were their faces scratched out? 

 

"They probably weren't meant to be there, they were probably working in the factory and thought let's go and get our photographs taken." - Grandmother

These people have been treated in such a way as that they have been denied a representation, 

denied a history.

A second kind of death.

The reason remains unknown.

I took reproductions of the scribbled out faces from the photograph of my grandfather and placed them within the book 100 Years of Ceylon Tea 1967, (published by the Ceylon Tea Propaganda Board). The etching above the insert features an  Edward Lambert Boyd Moss, my Great-great-Grandfather. 

 

I then left the image within the page and returned the book to the library.

Perhaps the image will lie in the book until someone else decides to order it from Edinburgh’s Central Library reserve. Perhaps it will be found by a librarian and thrown in a bin. Perhaps it will linger a while within its new domicile.

My own position is one of hypocrisy.