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Dr. Nandana Chutiwongs

Guest Lecturer and Adviser | Faculty of Archaeology, Silpakorn University, Bangkok.

It has been more than a great privilege in this lifetime, to have met my very dear ‘Professor Prem’, to have learned to know him and worked with him for so many long years. He was indeed like a  father to me, as well as a very understanding friend, a mentor and mental refuge in both good and bad times. His consistent care, steadfast concern, plus his witty and humorous comments, had given the two of his privileged collaborators and friends –   namely the legendary Roland Silva and my humble self – much support, peace and genuine reprieve.  Time and again, he allowed me to invade his home and introduced me into the warmth of his family circle. His study was turned into a chaotic working den where three of us sat together, with papers littered on the floor and books spilling out on chairs and in every space around.  We must have eaten them out of hearth and home, while we sat and talked, or sulked at each other in moody gloom or in freezing silence of desperation. But his good humour, genuine tolerance, kindness and generosity always saved the day. It was always him who lightened and brightened those long hours and days we three spent shut up together, endlessly discussing monuments, sculptures and paintings, history and other fields of cultural heritage of Sri Lanka and more.  All these in ideal and idyllic pursuits to bring out to the public more interests and wider appreciation of Sri Lankan artistic traditions and culture.

Professor Prem’s profound store of knowledge, inborn intelligence and immense experiences on fieldworks and archaeology of ancient times, had greatly increased up my limited stretch of practical works, and further expanded my visions of history and art history pertaining to my own and other related cultures especially that of Sri Lanka.

Of our splendid monograph series, ambitiously planned and started by Roland Silva in 1987, anticipating as much as challenging decades of works, of perseverance and co-operation, almost one whole series of Paintings of Sri Lanka have been realized. Only the last volume is yet to be rounded up for publication to the Departmen of Archaeology of Sri Lanka or some other publishing institutions. The work on these monographs somehow appeared to have been much of an ideal and idyllic work to all of us. My two friends cum co-workers readily agreed to drop every item possible from their top-heavy schedules, during the two weeks that I spent my ‘holidays’ away from my university in Amsterdam.   Usually, I was whisked off directly from the airport straight to the work site, together with my two co-workers and their team of photographers and others.

The last volume of this painting series will by finished off soon. I have collected all fragmentary notes and scribbles they had left with me. I will miss my co-workers cum my dear departed friends – Roland Silva specially for pushing and ‘slave-driving’,  and  Professor Prem as final and decisive editor.  Both  may be looking down smiling to each other while encouraging me to do the best I can.  The other series on   Sculpture of Sri Lanka had followed suit with slower progress.  Only 4 of them, on Buddha, Bodhisattva, Siva and Visnu, have so far come out.  Unfinished texts, scattered notes and scribbles could perhaps be found here and there, waiting to be traced , sorted out and assembled for some  future usage.

Long time ago, during the memorable UNESCO quest of the ‘Silk Road of the Sea’ ,  cruising along  from Europe to Asia,  Professor Prem  gathered around him a number of  young colleagues, mostly

shy  graduates and budding  archaeologists, timid boys and girls from  departments of archaeology of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, China  and Thailand, encouraged them to make presentations of their researches, reports, fieldworks and interesting findings  for the benefit of  all fellow travellers on board.   This very kind and thoughtful gesture remained fresh and shining in the memory of many  young  persons  who then got boozed up to gain confidence in themselves , to get over initial shyness  to begin to build up their own life and  carreer.

Many years later, I met many of them again – they still talked gratefully about with affection and gratitude for  our “Professor Prem” on this very occasion.

With much love and gratitude,

Nandana Chutiwongs

Retired Senior Lecturer, University of Amsterdam | Retired Curator Department of Mainland Southeast Asia, National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, The Netherlands | Guest Lecturer and Adviser. Faculty of Archaeology, Silpakorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.

Bangkok, October 2023.