Other eyes

Drama spotlights problems of

war-widows in Jaffna

[TamilNet, Monday, 20 December 2004, 03:06 GMT]


A drama program held at the Kailasapathy Auditorium of the University of Jaffna on Sunday at 10:30 am for the plan by the Tamil Refugees Rehabilitation Organization (TRRO) to benefit the women widowed by war, sources in Jaffna said.

An evening show was also staged.The drama was written and directed by Mr. Devananth, a popular director of the privately run Active Theatre Movement in Jaffna. The drama was designed to highlight the social and economic problems faced by widows who are heads of households.Portions of poems written by Naga. Sivasithamparam were part of the drama.Mr. Devananth’s previous widely acclaimed drama, titled ‘Sigh of Fire,’ was based on the Chemmani mass graves [of people murdered by the Sri Lanka Army] and was held in Jaffna at a time when the SLA was still conducting operations in Jaffna.Guest speakers at the event included Mr. Puthuvai Ratnathurai, the well-known poet who is head of the LTTE’s Arts and Culture Division, and Mr. N. Raviraj, the Jaffnadistrict Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian.Mr. Nallathamby, TRRO reprsentative, also spoke at the event.

Jaffna play slates

‘philosophy of submission’

[TamilNet, Sunday, 25 March 2001, 17:11 GMT]

“The philosophy of compromise and submission is being forced upon us. The spectre of fear surrounds us, preventing us from speaking about the suffering in our land. We are frozen by fear. As a consequence, we have buried many things deep in our heart. .
We are compelled to wear different masks imposed on us by the outsider and are compelled from moment to moment to change our personalities” said Mr. T. Thevananth, reading out the proclamation of the play Uyir Visai (Life Force) that was staged at the Kailasapthy Hall in the Jaffna University Sunday. Jaffna University students who organised the performance said that the proceeds from the play will go for the education of the children whose parents were arrested by the Sri Lanka army in 1996-97 and were reported missingUyir Visai was staged at 10.30 a.m. in the morning and 3.30 p.m. in the afternoon Sunday. The play depicted death and human suffering in Jaffna in the context of the Sri Lankaarmy’s activities in the northern peninsula.“Let us live! Uyir Visai loudly calls on those who destroyed our lives” “We want our land”, said the play’s proclamation.The play is a continuation and development of the theme of Akkinip Perumoochchu (The Sigh of fire), directed by Thevananth and staged eleven times in many parts of Jaffna.Akkinip Perumoochchu was written and produced from the experiences the Jaffna University students involved in the play had gathered from the families of the Tamil men and women who were arrested by the Sri Lanka army in the peninsula in 96-97 and were reported missing since then, believed to have been murdered by the military and buried in Chemmani.Letters sent by the SLAto the kith and kin of the missing, claiming ignorance or assuring investigation were projected in the background during the performance of Akkinip Perumoochchu.The play is not merely entertainment but a continuing catalyst and clarion call for action, the student producers told Tamilnet. 

World Refugee Day 2005: ‘Courage’


World Refugee Day in Sri Lanka was celebrated this year through drama. UNHCR’s main event incorporated three performances by groups from Jaffna, Matara and Colombo. Spoken in Tamil, Sinhala and English respectively, the plays focused on displacement and the courage demonstrated by communities displaced by both the conflict and the tsunami.‘Courage’ was the theme for World Refugee Day 2005, when UNHCR pays tribute to the indomitable spirit of tens of millions of refugees and displaced persons, who have overcome enormous loss and hardship to start anew.Opening the drama festival at the Beira Lake Island in Colombo, UNHCR Deputy Representative, Ms Masti Notz stated, ‘The courage theme could not be more appropriate than here in Sri Lanka. The courage shown by those affected by the December 26 tsunami has humbled the world. Demonstrating stoicism in the face of adversity, and putting all of our lives into sharp perspective.’Furthermore, Ms Notz declared that the theme ‘extends to those many refugees and displaced persons who still await a lasting solution following the two-decade long civil conflict.’First to perform were the Active Theatre Movement from Jaffna. Concentrating on those displaced by the conflict, the group spectacularly brought their subject to life with songs and assorted props. Haritha Kulaka Madya from Matara, were equally animated with their take on the situation of those who lost their homes due to the tsunami. Finally, the pupils of Musaeus College challenged society’s ignorance to the plight refugees and displaced persons, by characterizing second generation western immigrants and recounting their past experiences.UNHCR Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) Spokesperson and highly-regarded Sri Lankan actress, Swarna Mallawarachchi, spoke to the audience about SGBV and how UNHCR’s media campaign has helped to highlight this issue and direct victims to sources of psychosocial counseling and legal advice.Particularly moving was the video recorded interview with Kamala, a young lady from Jaffna who was displaced by both the conflict and the tsunami. Exhibiting the very essence of courage, Kamala has confronted the many challenges of her life with the loss of her lower limbs, following a bomb attack whilst still at school. UNHCR was honoured by her attendance at our main World Refugee Day event in Colombo.Drama was also used to celebrate World Refugee Day by our field offices in Kilinochchi and Mannar, where drama competitions were organized, and also in Vavuniya.In co-operation with the Rural Development Foundation, UNHCR field office Vavuniya organized their World Refugee Day activities in four local welfare centres. In addition to putting on several plays, some of the participants performed songs, solo and group dances, costume contests and many were involved in drawing and essay competitions.In the post-conflict and tsunami environment, World Refugee Day 2005 succeeded in showing that through the common thread of courage, displaced communities all over Sri Lanka have actively sought to improve their circumstances, rebuilding their lives with dignity and hope for the future.

Active Theatre Movement
Jaffna, Sri Lanka

Active Theatre Movement (ATM) is primarily a children’s theatre organisation. Their members include young people from Jaffna trained as performers, and they showcase children’s plays in schools and communities in Jaffna, as well as other parts of the island. ATM’s work is focused on the touring children’s plays around schools in the Jaffna district, with the primary objective of entertaining children. They consider theatre an important element of children’s development and recreation, and their commitment to reach the children of Jaffna has been strengthened by the infrastructural and psychosocial impact of the war as well as the effects of the 2004 tsunami. However, ATM does other social theatre work as well. They began as a smaller group in 2002 touring a landmine education awareness play sponsored by UNICEF to re-settled communities after the ceasefire. They also perform village-level street theatre productions related to social development, for example gender issues, and the ethnic conflict, such as internal displacement.

Tsunami of cashRoss ClarkSaturday, 19th November 2005

Too much money was given for tsunami relief, says Ross Clark, and the aid agencies are prevented from spending it on other disasters


Oxfam says it is ‘involved in advocating the rights of the poor and marginalised as well as raising awareness of gender-related issues’. I am sure women’s rights in Indonesia are a very important issue, but I am not sure that it is what donors had in mind when they came up with the cash last Christmas. In Sri Lanka, Christian Aid is spending some of its money on the Active Theatre Movement, which stages plays for children caught up in the disaster. According to the publicity material for an exhibition on the tsunami which Christian Aid plans to stage in London next month, ‘the plays culminate in the children taking part by jumping up and down, clapping their hands and singing songs. They encourage children to express themselves and to re-engage with the wider community.’ I certainly wouldn’t want to be thought of as belittling the Active Theatre Movement, whose work I am sure has been an inspiration to many orphans, but I just wonder whether, were it allowed to, Christian Aid would not like to switch just a little of the further £31 million which it must spend on tsunami victims next year to some of the world’s less well-funded disaster zones. Two years ago, for example, Christian Aid launched an appeal to help the victims of civil war in northern Uganda. ‘We hoped that it would raise awareness of the conflict and at least a million pounds,’ says Martin Kyndt, Christian Aid’s director of corporate affairs. ‘Unfortunately, it only raised £500,000.’ The charity needs a further £3 million to £5 million, he adds, to further its work in resettling abducted children.

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