The project was conceptualised, created and curated by Jaffna-born, British filmmaker 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. Kannan’s award winning films have been screened at international film festivals, appeared in The New Yorker, The Guardian, AOL Originals, Upworthy, Brainpickings and broadcast on Al Jazeera English and the BBC. Kannan studied psychology at the University of Cambridge and has a masters in international human rights from the University of Oxford. He was a visiting scholar teaching media and conflict at Cornell University during 2015.
Except where mentioned, all the photographs on this site and the associated Facebook page were taken by Kannan Arunasalam. There were 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 for I Am Jaffna, and motivating me to complete my first series that lasted over a year. For I Am 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 I Am Galle. Gayathri Lokuge and Ketharasarma Ledchumanasarma guided me in selecting elders in their hometowns of Galle and Jaffna respectively.
I’d like to thank my amazing team of researchers for series two. I Am Negombo couldn’t have been possible without Shashika Bandara, who’s roots in Negombo have been invaluable to connecting me with wonderful elders there. Thank you to Sujikanth Sotheeswaran and Kathirgamathamby Krishnaraj, for their help on I Am Batticaloa. And Ketha Ledchumanasarma for your continued help on translations.
In many ways, it was a journey for us all, discovering our roots through engaging with the wise men and women we met.
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.