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 the 1983 pogrom. Words that sparked off occasional discussions, words that came up in some of the books I read and most of all, stark images, some of which are permanently etched in my memory. And through it all, a refrain.
A few months ago, I was commissioned by Groundviews to be a part of “30 Years Ago”. Together with Natalie Soysa, I began for the first time in my life, to consciously evaluate the past 30 years. To carefully consider the impact the 1983 pogrom has made on my life, if any. To talk to people, mostly women, about 3 decades during which our country has changed so much and yet not changed.
And today, I have come back to this photo. The refrain of “never again” is growing fainter amidst nationalistic rhetoric, amidst a mindset of winners versus losers, amidst a climate of fear and censorship.
Much left to untangle yet
Editors note: The author is part of a project, curated by Groundviews, that brings together leading documentary filmmakers, photographers, activists, theorists and designers, in Sri Lanka and abroad, to focus on just how deeply the anti-Tamil pogrom in 1983 has shaped our imagination, lives, society and polity.
The resulting content, featuring voices never captured before, marrying rich photography, video, audio and visual design with constitutional theory, story-telling and memorialising, has no historical precedent.
The project is an attempt to use digital media and compelling design to remember the inconvenient, and in no small way, acts of daring, courage and resistance during and after Black July.
Read more here.