‘Voices in Peacetime – ‘her-stories’ of resilience and hope’ This project was launched in May 2012 with the financial support from the Culture and Conflict Programme under the Prince Claus Fund in collaboration with the Commonwealth Foundation. The Prince Claus Fund is a platform for intercultural exchange, working with individuals and organizations primarily in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and the fund organizes contemporary activities and publications about culture and development.
The objectives of the project were documentation of the narratives of women to capture a range of view points and experiences that highlight their hopes for their children and Sri Lanka’s future by reflecting on its past, creating a web based repository for the stories gathered, a travelling exhibition which allows for voices from the North and South to be taken to the deep-south and East of Sri Lanka and permanent archive of women’s narratives to be created at the National archives in Colombo. This archival project is first of a series of Sri Lankans’ histories. This phase focused on mothers from the South and North. It highlighted their strength in the face of adversity, and their hopes for their children’s and Sri Lanka’s future. Mothers are guardians of their family history. They are the pillars of strength upon which a family is built. As such, this project chose to archive mothers’ stories, recording the story of an entire family.
These histories or ‘Her-stories’ not only showcased a shared history, but showed how we Sri Lankans are rooted in multiple identities, multiple histories, and different experiences. Through the narratives of many, this project highlighted a collective sense of fundamental humanness and ‘Sri Lankanness’ that transcend boundaries. These ‘Her-stories’ will add to the culture of oral tradition and story telling in Sri Lanka. They will also contribute to bringing diverse groups together and the preservation of history through the ‘voices of those that lived it’ for future generations of Sri Lankans. The project has collected 230 oral histories recounting personal histories, experiences and hopes – some through hand-written letters; some through photo essays; some through short video; and some through mapping and visual story telling exercises. These have been translated and are available in English, Sinhala and Tamil. A sample collection was presented through a traveling exhibition in Colombo, Ampara, Galle and Jaffna. The exhibition in Jaffna was sponsored by the (ICES) International Centre for Ethnic Studies. Subsequently the ICES also organized the ‘her-stories’ exhibition and held within their premises in Colombo. The entire collection has been digitally archived online at www.herstoryarchive.org website. The originals will be presented to the National Archives in Sri Lanka for posterity. This will ensure that it remains a living history