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Home and Beyond

A Pluralistic Memories Project

How do we remember what we have been through? Do all of us remember the same incident, the same way? What would we rather forget? Home and Beyond is an attempt at understanding how differently we remember the same events, depending on where we were and who we were.

Home and Beyond draws from the Pluralistic Memories project by ICES. Pluralistic Memories is a broad spectrum academic research that hopes to elicit the views, opinions and memories from all Sri Lankan ethnic communities, spanning the recent decades of conflict and the post-conflict period. It is being simultaneously piloted in three societies of complex environments following several decades of conflict, i.e. Burundi, Israeli-Palestine and Sri Lanka. It is recognized that none of these societies provide ideal conditions for the working out of classic truth and reconciliation processes. Therefore, the research and intervention programme of the Project is geared to create a space for pluralistic discussions of the memories of war as well as to provide a safe space for those who share these memories. It is envisaged that these interventions will facilitate spill-over effects that will lead to community healing through the sharing of memories and the first steps to encouraging positive critical social change.

This gallery features dramatized readings of some of the memories articulated by personal interviews during the course of the project. All readings are anonymized.

Respondent 1

A professionally qualified senior executive in the corporate sector, born to parents of mixed ethnicity and residing in Colombo with his wife and three adult children. In early adulthood, he recalls how his parents took in their Tamil neighbours into his own home during the 1983 pogrom to keep them safe from the mob who had set fire to their neighbours’ home. Having witnessed the shock, horror and psychological impact that the event left on his neighbours and their neighbourhood, and being trilingual, he now actively engages with people of various ethnicities to enable release of trauma and forgiveness of one another from the brutal past they had endured. He is now retired and continues to live in Colombo.

Respondent 2

Bio: A middle-aged widower, resident in a remote, rural village bordering two districts in the North Central Province. He found employment during the war years in the civil security division, where he served at several guard posts set up by villagers to protect themselves from sporadic intrusion and attacks by the LTTE personnel in neighbouring areas. The father of two lost his beloved wife in a bus bombing in which over 50 civilians died. At the time, his wife and he were jointly caring for their two sons and the orphaned child of close relatives who had also been killed by the rebel group some years before then. Now that the war is over, he lives with one of his sons and ekes out a living by farming.

Respondent 3

He is a senior citizen among Sri Lanka’s academia in his 60s, resident in the Western Province, and still teaching at a tertiary education institute. As a member of a minority ethnic group in Sri Lanka, he and his family were affected by the race-related insurrections of the 1970’s and the 1980’s. After his marriage, he moved abroad with his family to pursue his career. He returned to the country after the war had ended. He has resided in Sri Lanka ever since together with his wife.

Respondent 4

A married, middle-aged man, resident in the Western Province. He was a former police officer, later employed in the commercial aviation industry, now retired and living in relative comfort together with his wife. He is the father of a married daughter and still grieves over his son who worked for the Air Force. His son disappeared when the LTTE shot down the plane he was on in the ‘90s. He and his wife still live in waning hope of their son’s return someday.

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