The project was conceptualised, created and curated by Kannan Arunasalam. Kannan uses documentary, photography and multimedia forms of storytelling. From Jaffna, he grew up in England and returned to Sri Lanka in 2004. His films have been screened at international film festivals and broadcast on Aljazeera. He is also a qualified media and human rights lawyer and a regular contributor to Radio Netherlands Worldwide.
The majority of the photography on this site were taken by Kannan Arunasalam. There are also contributions from other Sri Lankan photographers including Alefiya Akbarally, Dominic Sansoni and Menika van der Poorten, as well as those who have spent time living in Sri Lanka like Daniel Ringold. Archive photographs are from Studio Times, Colombo. The website was designed by Cezar Neaga, a Romanian who used to live and work in Sri Lanka, and who now lives and works in London.
The first series became a family affair, with my wife Sweta Velpillay and my father – whose hometowns are Jaffna, but are now part of the internal and international diaspora communities – contributing their time to help me with interviews and translations, and motivating me to complete my first series that lasted over a year. In Kandy, Menika van der Poorten, whose ancestors are from the Kandyan provinces, helped me find elders there and contributed some of the photography for Kandy and Galle. Gayathri Lokuge and Ketharasarma Ledchumanasarma guided me in selecting elders in their hometowns of Galle and Jaffna respectively.
In many ways, it was a journey for us all, discovering our roots through engaging with the wise men and women we met. Seeing my father learn more about the Muslim expulsion from Muslims who had now returned to Jaffna was important to me. Their narratives displaced the version he had been led to believe.
The project is funded by the American Center in Colombo, and I am grateful to Glen Davis and Jeff Anderson who supported me throughout the first series, giving me the freedom to explore these regions and characters with full creative control.
I would like to thank those helping behind the scenes who directed us to stories and storytellers. There are too many to mention, but I would like to particularly thank Gurupuran Kumaradivel, Dr. Tissa Jayatilaka and Sabri Khalid, who directed us to characters from their hometowns of Jaffna, Kandy and Galle respectively.
And finally, but not least, to the characters who let us into their lives and who had the patience to allow us to collect their stories and pictures.
The second series is just beginning, with many more people to thank…