Archiving memories

‘Herstories’ of Resilience and Hope

“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.” – Chimamanda Nģozi Adichie

Herstories project is based on the idea that generally, women and children are the most affected by war and peace. Yet, women’s voices are the least heard mostly because they are oral histories, and are hardly ever recorded. As it passes from their memory and ours, it will also vanish from history.

HERSTORIES attempts to address this gap, by collecting mothers’ narratives from the ground (South, East and North Sri Lanka). Primarily because mothers are guardians of memory – narrating stories, collecting photographs and keeping the family history alive – when a mother is asked her story, she speaks not only of herself but of her family, neighbours and village. As a result she creates a composite view of a time period, a place and a set of identities that is truly unique. Together, these lives of others even though very personal individual stories, create a collective set of narratives that add faces, names, places, character, hopes, dreams, challenges, strength, courage and ‘flesh’ to an era in Sri Lankan history that must not be forgotten.

https://theherstoryarchive.org/

Extract:

Photo-essays Kilinochchi District

I want the best for my children

A mother of three from Kilinochchi speaks of her struggle to survive and wishes for a better future

English: I have three children. We had a terrible time during the war, no food, no water. We were in Manukulam when a shell struck my husband. I was 22 when he died. We lived in a refugee camp in Chettikulum for about a year after that. When their father died I told my children that they should not worry because I will take care of them. I always do my best to provide them with what they need. 

Tamil: எனக்கு மூன்று பிள்ளைகள். போர்நடந்த காலத்தில் உண்ண உணவோ குடிநீரோ இல்லாது நாம் மிகக் கஷ்டத்தை அனுபவித்தோம். நாம் மாங்குளத்தில் இருந்தபோது எனது கணவர் செல்லடிபட்டார். அவர் இறக்கும்போது எனக்கு 22 வயது. அதன் பின்னர் ஒரு வருட காலமாக நாம் செட்டிகுளத்திலுள்ள அகதி முகாமில் வசித்தோம். தகப்பன் இறந்தபோது எனது பிள்ளைகள் எதற்கும் கவலைப்படக்கூடாதெனவும் நான் அவர்களைப் பராமரிப்பேன் எனவும் கூறினேன். அவர்களுக்குத் தேவையானவற்றை வழங்குவதற்கு நான எப்போதும் என்னாலானதைச் செய்வேன். 

https://theherstoryarchive.org/photo-essays-kilinochchi/i-want-the-best-for-my-children/

NR

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Languages and identities – Fiction and non-fiction references

Identities within a language – in Tamil

In Caste and its multiple manifestations. A study of the Caste System in Northern Sri Lanka (2021, Baby Owl Press, Sri Lanka), Selvy Thiruchandran studies how language structures go hand-in-hand with caste structures:

“A question raised by a low caste person to an upper caste person mainly the Vellalar takes an interesting form. It is considered rude or impolite to ask a question or make a statement on equal terms or with an equal status with a Vellalar. For example, questions like “are you going?” or “what do you say?” have to add a phrase akum in order to sound respectful. Instead of directly asking poreenkala (Are you going?), “akum is added at the end, thus saying poreenkalakum\ Or, instead of asking ennasollureenka (What do you say?) they say “ennavaakum sollureengal The interrogative marker has supposedly made the address polite and dispels the status of being equal in the conversation. Etymologically aakum cannot be explained or broken into syllables to signify a meaning other than a derived contextual meaning as it appears or it seems expressing a sense of uncertainty like, maybe’. Unlike other forms of speech formation aakum was a Panchamar construction. How it originated and why it originated remains a mystery ” (p 63).

Forms of respect as well as derogatory comments can be conveyed through the use of specific language structures. People belonging to low-castes could be referred to in the adu (it / animal or object form): “A person of high caste, when he wants to ask the question “Where are they?” phrases it as “atukal enge?”(thus referring to them as inanimate objects) instead of “avarkal enge” Where are they?)” (p 64).

In When I Hit You, Meena Kandasamy reflects on how language shapes her identity or rather how she can see herself:

Language determines who you are, but also who you are shapes the language you use
“English makes me a lover, a beloved, a poet. Tamil makes me a word huntress, it makes me a love goddess.
There is a linguistic theory that the structures of languages determine the mode of thought and behaviours of the cultures in which they are spoken. In an effort to understand my life at the moment, I have come up with its far-fetched corollary, a distant cousin of this theory: I think what you know in a language shows what you are in relation to that language. Not an instance of language shaping your worldview but its obtuse inverse, where your worldview shapes what parts of the language you pick up. Not just: your language makes you, your language holds you prisoner to a particular way of looking at the world. But also: who you are determines what language you inhabit, the prison-house of your existence permits you only to access and wield some parts of a language.
Now in Mangalore, I know the Kannada words eshtu: how much; haalu: milk; aanda: eggs; namaskaram: greetings; neerulli: onions; hendathi: wife; illi: here; aadu: that one; illa: no; saaku: enough; naanu naandigudda hogabekku: I want to go to Naandigudda” (p 92).

Identities beyond a single language

What happens then when one moves from one language to another and faces what Yaa Gyasi has eloquently phrasely: (speaking of her mother from Ghana, who moved to America) “I think, rather, that she just never figured out how to translate who she really was into this new language” (Transcendent Kingdom, Yaa Gyassi).

Despite the inevitable sense of loss in this process of translating identities, there is also the possibility of creating new ones, as Lauren Collins brings out in When In French. Love in a Second language:

“ Bilinguals overwhelmingly report that they feel like different people in different languages. They do so for a multitude of reasons, some of which are less attributable to any language in particular than to having a new language itself. A person may be a loan shark in his new language when he was an opthalmologist in his native tongue. Perhaps he spoke Polish to his first wife but speaks Portuguese with the second. He may have scaled or slid down the ladder of class. He may have changed his politics, or his name.”

It is often assumed that the mother tongue is the language of the true self. And in many ways it remains the primal vehi­cle, the first and most effective responder in moments of cele­bration or crisis. A person who has spoken English most of her life is always going to speak English when she stubs her toe. But if first languages are reservoirs of emotion, second lan­guages can be rivers undammed”, and even “A fresh language can be a solvent to heart­ache.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Books on the war

   
Beyond Check-points: Stories of Human Resilience in troubled Sri Lanka by Duleep de Chickera.The Diocese of Colombo, 2023.

Extracts:

Counting shells – How plantation Tamils joined the LTTE controlled areas
“The daily lives of these twice oppressed humans redefined human desperation. They were on their own, among their own and in need of protection from their own. Their presence served the cause of those near and far. They had to be there to churn out cadres with no questions asked; just as they produced the best tea in the world for the lowest possible wages with no questions asked. Decades of suppression had conditioned them to passively obey. They were the idea ingredients for a fascist regimes; the ‘indispensable-dispensable’, dressed in rubber slippers and fed with layers of indoctrination.”

People of conscience
“As several like Fr. Clifford were learning, it was daily doses of restrictions and not carefully clichée statements in impressive assembly halls that stimulated these conscience corners of human resilience. All the UN’s motions and all the parliaments of the world brought little relief when tyranny strode down lonely byways in the darkness of night.”

“If you happened to be the Tamil from beyond the border, you had to be Tiger on this side. This is the plain message I got again and again,” he sobbed. Hell, for the young Tamil fleeing the LTTE, was a place that moved with you.”

Beyond Checkpoints
“The check point culture was much, much more than the visible or the moment. Those who met there carried heavy baggage that had to be unpacked in a matter of moments. For the few who stood there through the day, the ability to observe, question, screen and ensure all was well with courtesy, a thousand times over, was commendable. For the many who passed through, the ability to be patient and understanding when questioned or searched several times a day, was equally commendable. That these interactions occurred without incident through the day and night, spoke volumes about the goodwill and co-operation between those who stood and those who moved.”

“But for now this is our life, looking into peoples’ bags and getting scolded by everyone. What to do, this is our fate.”

 

NR

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“Gotabaya Rajapaksa, un politicien brutal au seuil du pouvoir sri-lankais” par Vanessa Dougnac

“Il est l’homme lié à l’un des épisodes les plus violents de l’histoire du Sri Lanka et du début du XXIe siècle. Celui qui fut le stratège militaire de l’anéantissement de la guérilla des Tigres tamouls, en 2009, arbore aujourd’hui un sourire jovial sur les posters de la campagne présidentielle. Moustache fournie et crinière cendrée, Gotabaya Rajapaksa a percé parmi un nombre record de 35 candidats et s’est imposé comme l’un des favoris du scrutin qui se déroulera ce samedi 16 novembre.”

via: Le Temps

“Le clan Rajapaksa consolide son emprise sur le Sri Lanka” par L’Obs avec AFD

via: L’Obs

“Sri Lanka elections | Unfair to attribute racist dimension to Tamil vote, says Sampanthan” by Meera Srinivasan

It is unfair to attribute a “racist” dimension to the Tamil vote in Sri Lanka’s presidential election, according to senior Tamil leader R. Sampanthan.

His remark comes a day after the results of the country’s biggest election were declared. The winner — newly elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa — garnered his 52.25% vote share almost entirely from areas where the majority Sinhalese community is concentrated.

via: The Hindu

“Sri Lanka’s New President Gotabaya: The View From New Delhi” by Devirupa Mitra

From New Delhi, the picture on the Rajapaksas is mixed. There is lingering bitterness over friction in bilateral ties during the last few years of his elder brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure. But those memories have now been superseded with the difficulty faced with Maithripala Sirisena in pushing flagship Indian projects forward

via: The Wire

“Sri Lanka’s Presidential Election: Healing the Wounds is the New Task” by Pr Jayadeva Uyangoda

Meanwhile, the pressures of big electoral victories are such that the new president and his family members, who will constitute the core of the new regime, might find it difficult to resist the temptation of giving into the wishes of their Sinhalese nationalist constituency. This is particularly so in view of the ethnic polarisation of the electoral verdict.

via: Groundviews

“The Rajapaksas are back in power in Sri Lanka” The Economist

“For nearly ten years the Rajapaksa family ran Sri Lanka. Now, after a five-year hiatus and a bit of a reshuffle, they are back. On November 16th an unprecedented 84% of voters turned out to crown Gotabaya Rajapaksa president, handing him well over half the votes in a crowded field of 35 candidates. Mr Rajapaksa had served as defence chief during the 2005-15 reign of his brother Mahinda. The latter, blocked by the constitution from becoming head of state again, is likely to serve as his younger brother’s prime minister.”

via: The Economist

“BBS to be dissolved after general elections: Gnanasara Thera” by Daily Mirror

The BBS announces that it is dissolving. After Gota’s election, Gnanasara says, “there will be nothing for us to struggle for. We can get involved in our other work and help to work for the betterment of this Sinhala Buddhist country. Now we have the full assurance after electing the new President. The ‘One country one law concept’ in his manifesto gave an assurance to our country.”

via: Daily Mirror

“Activists call on GR to protect democracy, minorities” by Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya

With a slightly different outlook towards the days and weeks to follow, Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) Executive Director Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu was of the opinion that instability will not come about if the appointment of a Prime Minister and Cabinet and the dissolution of Parliament can be resolved amicably.

He added that ideally, anyone elected as the Executive President has the power to reconcile the North and the South. “As you know, the Election results have split the country in two, with the minorities going one way and the rest of the country going another,” Dr. Saravanamuttu said, adding that, “If we cannot agree with each other, we will never be able to pursue the path of prosperity that we all say we deserve. We need to have that reconciliation and unity. It cannot become a majoritarian democracy.” Dr. Saravanamuttu added that he hopes President-elect Gotabaya Rajapaksa will recognise the need for reconciliation and unity and take necessary steps to ensure he is the President of all Sri Lankans. Echoing his views, Office on Missing Persons (OMP) Chairman Saliya Pieris said: “The President is the President of the entire country, and whether one supported him or opposed him at the Election, he must be constructively supported in the implementation of his vision for the country, as long as he does so in terms of the spirit of the Constitution.”

via. ft.lk

“Retour à Jaffna” par FAURE Jean-Paul

Retour à Jaffna c’est le voyage de Lunna, une femme résolue, à la recherche d’un homme qu’elle ne connaît que par sa littérature. C’est aussi une aventure sociale et humaine, une représentation singulière, intime et franche d’un pays encore très mal connu : Sri Lanka.
Lunna  devient responsable des Alliances françaises alors que le pays est en guerre civile depuis plusieurs décennies. Une période de cessez-le-feu et de pourparlers de paix intervient. L’engagement de Lunna la conduit à traverser le territoire pour découvrir Jaffna, une ville en partie détruite. Sur les traces de la culture française, elle recherche les liens et les survivants. Une relation d’estime et d’honneur, peut-être d’amour, la conduit à retrouver Sandana Poninbalham, ancien responsable de l’Alliance française de Jaffna qui a laissé, avant sa disparition, des textes dont elle apprécie le caractère littéraire.

http://www.editionskailash.com/Productdetail.aspx?Bookid=250

Par l’ancien Directeur des Alliances françaises du Sri Lanka
http://jeanpaulfaure.com/Accueil

Sri Lanka related articles in new issue of SOUTH ASIA

South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies is pleased to announce the publication of Vol. 42/4 (August 2019), available via the Taylor & Francis website https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/csas20/42/4?nav=tocList.

Articles

Representing the Sportsperson: Television Advertisements and the Evolution of Sports Discourse in India, by Sonal Jha

Sexual Nationalism, Masculinity and the Cultural Politics of Cricket in Bangladesh, by Adnan Hossain

‘An Evil Thing’: Gandhi and Indian Indentured Labour in South Africa, 1893–1914, by Goolam Vahed 

Nehru’s Non-Alignment Dilemma: Tibetan Refugees in India, by Ria Kapoor

‘To Shock the Conscience’: Rhetoric in Death Penalty Judgements of the Supreme Court of India, by Rajgopal Saikumar 

Priceless Enthusiasm: The Pursuit of Shauk in South Asia, by Kirin Narayan and Muhammad Kavesh

Special Section: Lankapura: Sri Lanka and the Ramayana in Historical Perspective 

Guest Editors: Sree Padma and Justin Henry

Introduction. Lankapura: The Legacy of the Ramayana in Sri Lanka, by Sree Padma and Justin Henry 

Articles

Explorations in the Transmission of the Ramayana in Sri Lanka, by Justin W. Henry

Borders Crossed: Vibhishana in the Ramayana and Beyond, by Sree Padma

Mapping Lanka’s Moral Boundaries: Representations of Socio-Political Difference in the Ravana Rajavaliya, by Jonathan Young and Philip Friedrich

Ravana’s Sri Lanka: Redefining the Sinhala Nation, by Dileepa Witharana

Reclaiming Ravana in Sri Lanka: Ravana’s Sinhala Buddhist Apotheosis and Tamil Responses, by Pathmanesan Sanmugeswaran, Krishantha Fedricks and Justin Henry

source: AISLS

 

new teaching module on Adam’s Peak proposed by AISLS

AISLS is pleased to announce the publication on their website of a new teaching module, Teaching about Adam’s Peak.  Designed by Alex McKinley, the module includes background information, a virtual pilgrimage, three videos, and a bibliography for further reading.  It is designed to enable community college and four-year college teachers include Sri Lanka material in introductory courses in World Religions, Cultural Anthropology or Asian Civilizations.
 
This the fourth teaching module to be available on the AISLS website.  The other units are Teaching about Tea, Teaching about the 2004 Tsunami, and Teaching about the Ramayana.  All modules are designed for community college teachers or others teaching  various introductory courses.
 
source: AISLS