I was, I am.

The more I read regarding this event, the more complex this moment became for me. Definitions or takes on what happened that July include riot, spontaneous outbreak, pogrom where the state instigated violence to ‘teach Tamils a lesson,’ holocaust, an expression of economic changes brought in by the open economy, a continuum of the violence that had become part of society by then, and a moment in which some Tamils were killed but others protected because of perhaps their class difference. The narratives relating to that moment have been greatly explored and yet have not been exhausted.[1] Introduction I was, …

1983 to 2013: Gods, Dieties and Cities of Sri Lanka

Deities have always shaped Sri Lanka. Deities defined by basic heroism, acts of bravado and incredulous promises… above and beyond pedestrian lives. A simple people where, the majority profess to Buddhism and Hinduism, seem to have resorted to deification to fill the improbable gaps left by these incorporeal, sophisticated philosophies. This shapes a society that is a contradiction and yet a familiar conformation. Deities and gods are actors, mostly gleaned from the high visibility political firmament. In the lives of the common people they swirl in ever-evolving forms, appearing for varying terms and then surely disappearing. Some of these deities …

Sharni Jayawardena

Sharni Jayawardena is a documentary filmmaker turned photographer who likes to combine still images with people’s narratives to tell stories that resonate. She is exploring the potential of digital media in general, and audio slideshows in particular, to create and enable more democratic conversations within Sri Lanka’s despotic and repressive reality.

Sachini Perera

Sachini Perera is a freelance photographer, writer and activist from Sri Lanka. She is a strong believer in the power of photojournalism to capture and tell stories. Her work has been published in many leading Sri Lankan newspapers and webzines. In addition to photojournalism, her repertoire includes travel photography, music photography and portraiture. Sachini held her debut photography exhibition in June 2013 and has been previously exhibited in Sri Lanka and in India. In April 2013 she was one of the speakers at a TEDxChange event organized in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on the theme of “positive disruption”. Sachini graduated in …

Tanuja Thurairajah

Tanuja Thurairajah is an independent writer/ researcher. She has a MAS in Peace & Conflict Transformation from the University of Basel and is currently finalizing her thesis entitled ‘Diasporic engagement: political participation amongst first generation Sri Lankan Tamils in Switzerland’. She is co-creator of an oral-history project, PROJECT Belonging that shares personal histories of Sri Lankans living in Switzerland. Her research interests are diaspora politics, multiculturalism and conflict.

30 years on

Khan clock-tower with the site of the Sony building next to it. The Sony building was one of the main buildings to be set on fire in 1983 New building on the site of the Sony building. Old buildings stand side by side newly rebuilt ones on Main Street. Gasworks Street and destroyed ruins. Makeshift shops have taken over and remained ever since. Gasworks Street and destroyed ruins. Makeshift shops have taken over and remained ever since. Bankshall Street in 2013 Bankshall Street in 2013 The gathering at Kanatte just prior to riots breaking out – The Ravaya Collection Rioters …

On Black July, I was 3 years old

Natalie Soysa Thirty years ago today, on Black July, I was 3 years old. I doubt I even knew what the difference between Sinhalese or Tamil or Muslim meant at the time. I am angered that the 30 years since has taught me otherwise. I’ve spent the last 6 weeks, working with Sachini Perera who invited me to be a part of the ’30 Years Ago’ initiative that Groundviews had commissioned her for. Our specific project covers the stories of over 40 women we have been photographing and interviewing together. The experience has been a process of growth and insight …

Home

Tehani Ariyaratne This is the view from my home. 30 years ago, I was not even alive but if I had stood in this same place, looking in this same direction, I would have seen the black smoke choking the air, perhaps seen flames rising from building and cars; I would have heard the screams of the tortured and the victorious cheers of the mob; my nose would perhaps have filled with the acrid smell of burning rubber and wood, and I would stepped indoors, into the safety my ethnicity afforded me. For the last two months now I have …

Much left to untangle yet

Sachini Perera I took this photo 4 years ago, on the 18th of May 2009. On a day when I was out of words and could just about manage to write on my blog, much left to untangle yet. On a day when I had reached a boiling point at a home whose politics were not my politics. On a day I felt disconnected from the jubilation pervading the country. I’m reposting it today, on the 23rd of July 2013. It has been 30 years since Black July. Black July | කලු ජූලිය  Familiar words though I was born 3 years after …

Thirty years ago, today

Iromi Perera Mullaitivu, Sri Lanka, May 2013. Seshanka Samarajiva for The Picture Press Thirty years ago today, my parents were heroes. Until yesterday, I didn’t even know this. My mother who worked in Fort back then, saw buildings going up in smoke, tyres burning and the chaos. Her Tamil colleagues were given priority office transport and sent home first. One colleague, a Tamil lady with a nose ring and a large pottu refused to take it off despite everyone urging her to do so – for her own safety. My mother and her boss decided that it would be best if they …