The Uncover photography exhibition, curated by the Act Now Initiative, is a profound visual and narrative exploration into the themes of truth, justice and life in Sri Lanka. The exhibition is a reminder of the country’s tumultuous history and ongoing struggles, inviting visitors to confront the harsh realities faced by many Sri Lankans. The exhibition delves into various critical issues such as enforced disappearances, land grabbing, militarisation, religious discrimination and the plight of the Malaiyaha Tamils. Through powerful imagery and stories, Uncover aims to spark a conversation about these issues and inspire collective action towards justice and healing.

Enforced disappearances have left an indelible mark on Sri Lanka’s history. The country has the second highest number of enforced disappearances in the world, a tragic testament to the state’s dark past and present. The 1971 and 1987-1989 insurrections, as well as the 26 year civil war, saw thousands of individuals vanish without a trace. Despite the establishment of several commissions and the Office on Missing Persons, justice remains elusive for the families of the disappeared. The exhibition highlights the stories of these families, particularly the long standing protests by Tamil families in Kilinochchi, emphasising their relentless pursuit of truth and justice.

Land ownership in Sri Lanka is fraught with conflict, particularly in the Northern and Eastern provinces. The end of the civil war did not bring an end to the suffering of the people, as many lands remain occupied by security forces. Continuous struggles for land rights in areas such as Keppapilavu and Panama are a stark reminder of the ongoing displacement and dispossession faced by many communities. Uncover sheds light on these struggles, showcasing the impact of land grabbing on livelihoods, social security and cultural identity.

Sri Lanka is one of the most militarised countries in the world. Despite the end of the civil war in 2009, the country continues to allocate substantial portions of its budget to defense. This heavy militarisation, particularly in the Northern and Eastern provinces, has profound implications for civilian life. The exhibition illustrates how the military’s involvement in various sectors from education to agriculture affects economic growth and political freedom. The pervasive presence of the military and the accompanying threat of violence have a chilling effect on civic activism and public dissent.

Sri Lanka’s multi-religious fabric is marred by discrimination and violence, particularly against Muslim and Christian communities. Despite constitutional guarantees of religious freedom, these communities have faced numerous attacks and injustices. The forced cremation of Muslim Covid-19 victims, contrary to WHO guidelines, is a recent example of such violations. The exhibition documents these incidents, highlighting the lack of accountability and the state’s complicity in perpetuating religious intolerance.

The Malaiyaha Tamil community, brought to Sri Lanka as indentured labourers by British colonialists, has endured two centuries of systemic oppression and marginalisation. Despite their significant contributions to the country’s economy, they have been denied basic rights and subjected to harsh living conditions. The exhibition traces their long history of struggle, from the loss of citizenship and disenfranchisement to the ongoing fight for recognition and rights. Through powerful images and personal stories, Uncover brings to light the enduring legacy of colonialism and the need for justice for the Malaiyaha Tamils.

The Uncover exhibition is not just a showcase of photographs but a call to action. It urges visitors to confront the uncomfortable truths about Sri Lanka’s past and present and to stand in solidarity with those fighting for justice. By bringing these stories to the forefront, the exhibition hopes to inspire a collective movement towards healing, accountability and a more just future. As we navigate through the haunting images and heartrending narratives, we are reminded that turning a blind eye to injustice only hastens the day we become victims ourselves. The journey through Uncover is a journey towards acknowledging our shared responsibility in the quest for truth, justice and life.

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