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Sri Lankan cartoonist Camillus Perera dies

Perera, a devout Catholic, was one of the most famous cartoonists in the island nation
Camillus Perera

Camillus Perera (Photo: UCAN files)

Published: December 18, 2023 11:52 AM GMT
Updated: December 19, 2023 03:31 AM GMT

Sri Lankan cartoonist Camillus Perera, a devout Catholic who skillfully satirized corrupt politicians and mocked double standards of religious leaders for over fifty years, has died.

Perera, who created the popular cartoon character ‘Gajaman,’ died on Dec. 17, his family announced. He was 84.

His unique ability to criticize priests and bishops in "a funny yet creative manner" sparked both "controversy and admiration," said journalist Sureka Aththidiya, who interviewed him a couple of times for national dailies.

Godfrey Coray, president of the National Catholic Writers’ Association, said, "Perera came to the limelight for his incomparable marvels of Gajaman and Siribiris."

The Gajaman character and its story became so popular in Sri Lanka that it was made into a full-length movie in 2019.

Perera maintained his identity as an independent and courageous cartoonist for decades, “building a persona as a political cartoonist in the country," added Aththidiya.

A few priests were unhappy with some of his cartoons appearing in Catholic publications.

But the cartoons were "a constructive criticism," said Aththidiya.

She said he criticized politicians in a sarcastic way to make people understand their corrupt dealings.

In 1965, Perera started drawing cartoons for Dawasa newspaper and later moved to the state-run Silumina.

Perera’s journey as an independent professional began in 1982 when he launched the 'Camillus Gajaman and Satsiri' newspaper.

“This marked a new era in his career, allowing him greater creative freedom," said Aththidiya.

Journalist Nuwan Saroj said that in 2002 an exhibition of the Gajaman series was held to celebrate 30 years of its creation.

"We remember a man whose pen wielded both humor and truth,” said Saroj from his hometown Negombo, where Perera spent his professional life.

He was a skilled football player and represented a local club, he recalled.

Perera had his schooling at St. Sebastian's Catholic school in Negombo, and then at Maristella College and St. Mary's College.

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