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 …

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 …

The absolute silence at home: July, 1983

Tanuja Thurairajah Photo by P. Vijayashanthan The most vivid memory of violent conflict for me has been from July 23, 1983. I was 7 years old then, the same age as my twins today. Each time a word, something I read or hear takes me back to that day, the first image I see in my mind’s eye are white-streams from broken milk bottles on the black tarred roads, as my uncle drove us home from school. It was the longest journey back home and at that age there was no fear, only bewilderment. Once I got home everything was …

Silk sarees

Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai As I recall “Black July” 1983 on 23rd July 2013, 30 years have quickly passed by, but my memories of  “Black July” remain fresh and intact in my heart. On a Saturday morning, we heard the news about an ambush (13 army soldiers were killed) in Thirunelvely, Jaffna Peninsula on 23rd July 1983. As a family discussed the serious matter in detail. Following the official funeral of the 13 soldiers in Kanatte Cemetery in Colombo on 24th July 1983 (Sunday evening), we have received numerous phone calls via our land phone about the beginning of the pogrom on …

A card

Shanika Perera Click here for a larger version. ### First published on Groundviews on 23rd July 2013.

A moonlit walk

Devaka Seneviratne July 1983 was four years after I was born. Like many in my generation who were not directly affected by the events that took place, memories are hazy and disjointed. Black July is mostly remembered by faint memories such as the closing up of Lanka Medicals in Kandy, a shop that in those early days had a steady stock of Matchbox ‘dinky’ cars. My Uncle’s house in Bandarawela where we would spend holidays, had a neighbor whose car was set on fire. As a Sinhalese it is something that has at the back of my mind, made me …

Kesera Wittachy

Kesera Wittachy (42 years) Zürich, Switzerland ‘’What I remember most were the pyres; they used to put people in top of each other and put petrol and burn and that gives off a funny taste…. the smell. It’s like rosewater with burning hair and that taste that stays with you for years, months you just don’t get rid of it. Every time I have a nightmare and I see this, I don’t see pictures actually, I get a taste in my mind. When I think back it’s the taste of the burning bodies that I get.’’ Kesera, then 12 years …

Tharmini

Tharmini (40 years) Paris, France ‘The 1983 ethnic riots…. the Government directed by Sinhala chauvinism and the members of parliament were behind this pogrom, as well as behind the planned murders of the Tamil prisoners by the Sinhalese prisoners. I don’t believe in just saying, …the Sinhalese, the Sinhalese, pointing out to a common Sinhalese person and attacking him for this…but it is the chauvinistic Sinhalese Government spurred by a hatred of minorities, which even continues until this day, that is behind all this’’ Tharmini was just 10 years old when the 83’ riots broke out, and was living in …

Shobasakthi

Shobasakthi (46 years) Paris, France ‘‘When I looked out through my cell window again, I saw the jailors Rogers, Samitharatne and Palitha leading the Sinhala prisoners, who were leaping down the stairs like fishes jumping into rain – filled pools. Death was descending. Rogers opened a cloth bundle and flung out weapons, and the prisoners grabbed at them howling ‘Jayaveva’. The whole building was filled with screams of pain, howls of ‘Jeyaveva’ and the crowing of victory. 25 July 1983 was death day.’’* – Shobasakthi reading from his novel, ‘Mmmm’ Shobasakthi speaks to us about a very important day in …