Not so white: regained territories

8 channel video (no sound)

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. The right to life is a moral principle and a social contract, founded on the tenet that a human shall not be killed by another human. However, the more pressing issue has always been the question of precisely who, if anyone – an individual or an institution – has a legitimate right to take another’s life. Evolving responses to this question continue to re-calibrate the principles of human societies and different justice systems.

The Sri Lankan state’s war in the predominantly Tamil North of the island continued for over 30 years with loss of tens of thousands of lives. The United Nations estimated that over 70,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final stage of the Sri Lankan state’s offensive against the armed militancy of the Tamil Tigers (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) in 2009. Soon after the war ended, there was an influx of tourists from the Buddhist-Sinhala South into the Tamil lands of the North. War ‘relics’ became the backdrops for photographs. Social media was awash with colourful photographs of the battered yet picturesque regained territories that the local tourists brought back. In the company of some Tamil friends, in 2015, I traveled across the Northern Province with my children. A few families who had returned from the camps for the internally displaced persons spoke with me. Anandi who embroiders sarees for the markets as a member of a grassroots collective of women trying to rebuild their lives said “the sounds of the war still echo” in her ears.


Commissioned by Campbelltown Arts Centre | Part of Sydney Festival 2016

Jagath Dheerasekara, Not so white: regained territories, 2016. Installation view, Myuran Sukumaran: Another Day in Paradise, Campbelltown Arts Centre, 2017. Photo: Document Photography.