The International Centre for Ethnic Studies is pleased to launch its online Museum of Memory and Coexistence. The museum will seek to celebrate diversity, coexistence, resilience and solidarity, while archiving social exclusion, loss, and personal trauma.
It is part of a larger ICES initiative to explore the use of arts, and physical and digital spaces, to facilitate social healing, archive narratives of the past, and build creative spaces for talking about a shared future and non-recurrence.
The Sri Lankan state’s power to narrate the war and characterize the enemy is an expression of “triumphalist nationalism” and is a selective remembering of war. Based on photographs taken during several field visits to these sites by both authors between December 2012 and January 2014, we analyze the relationship of war and tourism and how a particular Sinhala nationalist remembering of the war and landscape of memory are being constructed in post-war Sri Lanka. Today, Sri Lanka is a former war zone where the Government’s troops defeated the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or Tamil Tigers) and ended 26years of violent conflict in May 2009. The end of the war came at a huge cost to civilian life in the northern part of the country ; the UN estimates that over 40,000 people were killed, most of whom were Tamils who form the majority in Northern Sri Lanka. Despite the end of military conflict, war continues by other means, and its representation encapsulates anationalist politics of victory that at once vilifies the defeated LTTE “terrorists” and excludes Northern Tamils from the Sri Lankan polis. The LTTE’s former hideouts, training facilities, weapons, and vehiclesare now tourist sites on display for public viewing.
The International Centre for Ethnic Studies is pleased to announce the launch of Research Paper No: 10 on the theme of Post War Reconciliation titled,‛What Lessons Are We Talking About? Reconciliation and Memory in Post-Civil War Sri Lankan Cinema’ by Dinidu Karunanayake and Thiyagaraja Waradas.
Reconciliation looms large in the Sri Lankan post-civil war era that dawned with the official end of the military engagement between the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009. While the state-crafted political endeavours aimed at reconciliation such as the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) are yet to yield sustainable results, post-war Sri Lankan cinema’s capacity for cultivating inter-ethnic harmony between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities has become a worthy topic of discussion. Since the end of the civil war, many films ‘based on’ or ‘inspired by the true events of war’ have emerged. They tend to depict negotiations and interactions between the two communities positively and negatively. As Elizabeth Jelin (2003) notes, memory construction subsequent to events of political tension involves ‘uses and abuses’ of memory as well as ‘ownership and the meanings of ‘us’. This paper analyses the construction of memory and the presence (or rather the absence) of reconciliation in four cinematic memory works, Maatha (2012) by Boodee Keerthisena, Gamani (2011) by Sarath Weerasekera, Selvam (2011) by Sanjaya Leelarathna and Ini Avan (2012) by Asoka Handagama. While arguing that these films ‘abuse’ memory and ‘canonize’ ‘our’ memory, this paper will illustrate how they distressingly widen the segregation between the two ethnic communities through ‘lessons learnt’—such as celebrating military triumphalism, privileging ‘our’ Sinhala legacy over Tamil ‘otherness’, promoting a form of ‘visual atrocity tourism’, and passing culpability of war on to Tamils—which undermine the goal of reconciliation.
This paper can be downloaded via this link
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