The Community Memorialization Project

Sri Lanka’s history of violent conflict has not only segregated entire communities from each other, but has also left behind a legacy of loss and pain. At a time when the nation is looking forward to a future of prosperity and development, it becomes imperative to promote a sense of collective strength, resilience and empathy – the foundation of a shared idea of “Sri Lankannes”.

The Community Memorialization Project is a joint venture between us and the Herstories Project. As the most comprehensive attempt to archive memory and oral history in Sri Lanka, the Herstories Project collects and documents individual stories of mothers whose families have been impacted by various conflicts in the nation’s history. These stories enable reflection and build bridges between communities who have experienced the tragedies of war, the elation of its end, and the cautious optimism of a collective future as Sri Lankans.

Working with volunteers in the Ampara, Matara, and Jaffna districts, the Community Memorialization Project will follow the Herstories Project model of capturing individual experiences and strengthening citizen-based and community-owned memorialization. The team will work with local partners to create safe spaces that enable sharing and remembrance. Our primary objective is to create an environment that acknowledges and protects the diverse perspectives and memories of our country’s history. We aim to accomplish this through 3 activity streams, each with its own specific objective.

Activity stream 1 focuses on grassroots action that will initiate the process of remembering and telling stories. This will be carried out mainly through media campaigns, community and district-based dialogue sessions, and the building of communal memorials with support from local artists. Activity stream 2 aims to disseminate the stories with the general public through an online archive, exhibitions, and collections of documents, which will also be available through public libraries and in schools. Activity stream 3 will facilitate common understanding through a series of meetings with regional and national actors. At these meetings, we will discuss the importance of grassroots memorialization, the production of a series of papers on memory and remembrance, and the importance of empathy in the process of reconciliation.

We believe that the impact of this initiative will extend far beyond the lives of the individual participants, reaching a wide audience across the country. We hope that it will transform how Sri Lanka historicizes the violence that has taken place over the past 40 years, and enable greater participation in the creation of our collective memories.

Read our practice note on memorialization and reconciliation in Sri Lanka here.

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