It was early April and I stood at the back of a busy venue huddling my camera near my heart. I was the photographer for the night and every person that walked in, and took their seat, would be my muse. The numbers amazed me. There were over a hundred people for such a humble, and grass-root based, artistic fundraising event in Toronto. It was planned by a group of Sri Lankan youth with the hope of reaching out to support the flood relief effort in Batticaloa, which displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
The event was creatively titled Ayelasah, after a rhythmic element in the rowing chants of South Asian fishing peoples, which sets the pace for work whose communal nature necessitates cooperation and harmony of movement.
As everyone took their seats, and the event began, art, music, and spoken word consumed the venue. Stories of growing up in Batticaloa were shared by the elders. The young sang of their hardships and desires growing up in a foreign land. All proceeds were to go to the land of their forefathers.
The spirit was clear. Their feet were here in Toronto; but, their hearts and their voices spoke for a people far off in an Island of their past.
This is a portion of the Tamil Diaspora so easily overlooked in Toronto. The media jumps when red flags and unrest occur on large streets in Downtown Toronto. Yet, when many bodies meet for a peaceful fundraising avail, in a silent venue in Toronto, there is hardly any media presence.
As I watch the artistic line up, it dawns upon me; of course, most are hurt and, at times, even angered. But, it is a love for the Island, and nothing less, which drives these souls.
Snap after snap, smile after smile, dollar after dollar; it is also clear that many have not forgotten where they are from. The fact that over four thousand Canadian dollars were raised that night to be sent back to help with the flood relief effort in Batticaloa makes that very clear.