Sri Lanka: Reconciliation on the stage

CARE Germany Programme Officer, Male Thienken, writes about her project monitoring visit experience in Sri Lanka.

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Film presentation in Kilinochchi: Women and Men discuss about daily problems of Tamil people in Sri Lanka. (Photo: CARE/Male Thienken)

For the second time already I am visiting the YOUth Create Project in Sri Lanka. This is a special project, which attempts to unite the insular states people through art and culture. Largely, it is funded by the European Union and is centered in the north and east of the country, which was affected by the civil war until 2009.

On the third day of my journey we are travelling to Mannar, where we meet the local Forum-Theater group and are able to watch one of the performances. Last year, I already had this pleasure with a differing cast, and I was impressed how the group involved the audience. In Forum-Theater daily life scenes are acted out in two cycles. On the second time, the audience is requested to shout “Stop”, if they do not agree with the course of the events. Afterwards they can slip into the role which should act differently in their opinion. This time a bus situation is illustrated: a young Tamil man is on his way for a job interview from the north of the country to the capital Colombo. As he speaks only a little Sinhalese he misunderstands the bus conductor, is treated dismissive and eventually misses his stopover. At this point the audience protests and demands a Tamil speaking fellow passenger to help this man.

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Understanding through interactive Theater: Tamil and Sinhalese approach each other after years of civil war. (Photo: CARE/Male Thienken)

On the next day, we continue our journey to Kilinochchi, where I get to watch short movies of the YOUth Create Project. One year ago when we met with the prospective filmmakers there has been lot of questions regarding the scripts. In the meantime, 16 movies have been produced and some of them even received prices. For instance the film “Ticket Please” by Anantha Ramanan was awarded as best movie at the Film Festival in Colombo. It also is about a young Tamil man who travels to Colombo to find a job. This problem seems to be widespread in Sri Lanka. In both shown situations, I wondered how impassive the main actors appeared, until I realized that this was based on the experiences they made as a Tamil living in north Sri Lanka. Due to missing understanding and support many Tamil try to behave inconspicuous and avoid attracting any attention. Through Theater and Film, sensitivity is created for this problem, which hopefully leads to a situation in the future where shame about origin will vanish and readiness to help each other becomes self-evident.

The original article was published in CARE Germany website. Please follow: http://blog.care.de/sri-lanka-versoehnung-auf-der-theaterbuehne/