Memorialisation and the sharing of both positive and negative experiences between adults and youth can contribute to achieving justice and reconciliation. The Missing Link: Women and Youth Unite to Reconcile through Memory is a project implemented by the Center for Equality and Justice (CEJ) from 2019 to 2021 which aimed to link women, including female heads of households, and youth in six districts – Kilinochchi, Batticaloa, Puttalam, Polonnaruwa, Hambantota, and Monaragala. The resulting product is a collection of expressions by Sri Lankan women who have worked through a process of self-recovery, healing, and forgiving.
A virtual museum was developed to exhibit the artwork created or inspired by the participating women and youth. Produced through a series of workshops co-facilitated by Radhika Hettiarachchi, Tehani Chitty, Vasuki Jeyashankar, and Kusal Gunasekara, the virtual museum displays the women’s expressions accompanied by poetry on memory, war, and loss by Vivimarie Vanderpoorten, Sumathy Sivamohan, and others. Curated by Hasini A. Haputhanthri, the exhibit, titled ‘Your trauma will never define you’, pays credit to human resilience and our capacity to heal and rebuild our lives despite encountering challenges.
CEJ is showcasing the digitized products on existing virtual platforms managed by the International Centre for Ethnic Studies that feature artwork, maps, and stories capturing memories of men, women, and youth from different communities affected by war or political violence in Sri Lanka and six other countries. The exhibit is primarily hosted on the Museum of Memory and Coexistence (MOMAC) website which caters to a local audience and is linked to the World Art and Memory Museum (WAMM) which targets a global audience and enables the work to reach a wider audience to influence the public discourse on history, memory, and reconciliation.
Examples of featured artwork and styles
Installation: Wishing Tree
Trees are the eternal symbol of power, wisdom, and longevity. Thus, to a community with traditional spiritual and cultural highlights, the prayer tree is seen as unique. The Wishing Tree symbolizes a tree with holy power. Women gather around trees and temples in which the gods reside, to pray about their struggles. They implore the gods for answers by hanging messages with prayers, bags of coins, flags, ribbons, food items, cradles, and mangala cords on the branches.
“Now we understand that the medium of art could be useful to express our memories and future expectations. This activity has an educational value. If we can use this work to educate the younger generation on the history of the conflict and what we lost, I think that could be the biggest teaching we can give to our kids”.
The result of a collective reflection process, these memory boxes were created by women from Southern Sri Lanka. During a series of workshops, women narrated their stories by sharing objects and photographs and engaged in the process of creating installation work based on their conversations.