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What makes a monk? Is it a person on a spiritual path? Or, is it just a person in a robe?
Does a priest sustained through society, have an obligation to its people?
—What is that? What happens when such a priest decides to relinquish the obligations of priesthood, but not the benefits that come from it? Who decides the consequence?
Can a monk make mistakes? Should they have the same consequences for those mistakes, as the rest of society? Should they be judged by the same moral and legal frameworks the rest of us are constantly judged by? —Why?
Is the definition of ‘blasphemy’ subjective?
And, the most important question of all; What kind of people choose to ignore blasphemy, and worse, pay for it?

These are some of the questions that stem from this intriguing print by the Sri Lankan artist Dhammika Perera. Created in 2017, we named it 'Just a man in a robe' after listening to Dhammika's story behind the painting

Dhammika—a teacher at the University of Visual and Performing Arts in Colombo—became introspective on the connection between religion and society after a monk close to his village was drunk and loud leading to getting arrested later. At the same time, he couldn’t help but notice how controversial behaviour from people with spiritual roles in society was becoming increasingly normalised in Sri Lanka; especially with religious figures entering active politics in the last two decades. This masterfully colour-matched screen print upon a store-bought monk robe, is how Dhammika caricatured this image of the ‘improper priest’ that was entering the public psyche, triggering markedly divided reactions. This print has single-handedly provoked some of the best conversations that took place in our studio.

H20.5” x W16.5”, framed. Two-colour screen-print on monks' robe.

Just a man in a robe: framed art