Diaspora Diaries: Video portraits from the Sri Lankan diaspora

To mark International Day of Peace, International Alert has released ‘Diaspora Diaries’: a series of documentaries telling the personal stories of members of the Sri Lankan diaspora.

Produced and edited by film-maker Kannan Arunasalam, the portraits shed light on the complex relationship of each individual with their country of heritage. Each person featured in this series builds a piece of the picture of the Sri Lankan diaspora.

In May 2009 the war in Sri Lanka ended with a military victory for the government over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The war may be over, but the task of securing a long-term peace is just beginning and diaspora communities have a desire to make a positive difference to people’s lives in Sri Lanka. They are trying to navigate the complex interaction between personal and communal histories, political realities and wanting to improve the lives and prospects of those living on the island.

The 'Diaspora Diaries' series explores the array of identities and opinions within diaspora communities, aiming to stimulate dialogue amongst people of Sri Lankan heritage on the nature of their identities, connections and interactions with the country.

A wide range of individuals were approached from the main ethnic communities in the diaspora – Tamil, Sinhalese and Muslim. Many of those we approached did not feel able to share their story with us. But, some individuals did feel that there was value to discussing their involvement. They wanted to explore what it meant to be a part of the diaspora, and to have the opportunity to share their stories.

In the first portrait, we introduce Dr Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam, a former Olympian, who now lives in the US and coaches young athletes in Sri Lanka. He says that sport can heal trauma and provide hope for the young.

The second portrait follows the story of Nikini Jayatunga, a member of Voices for Reconciliation - a cross-ethnic group of second generation British Sri Lankans. She uses culture as a way of bringing people together and talking about conflict.

The third portrait is that of Paul Sathianesan, who arrived in the UK as a refugee and is now a Newham councillor. He feels a responsibility to the youth of Sri Lanka to make sure they have a peaceful future.

The fourth portrait is that of Amjad Mohamed-Saleem, born in Nigeria to Sri Lankan parents. He now lives in the UK, but previously worked in Sri Lanka as the country director for Muslim Aid, and continues to work on interfaith matters.

The fifth portrait is that of Akneeswaran (Akee) Jeganathapillai, who left Sri Lanka at 4 years old and is now a doctor living in the UK. Akee is part of ARC, a group of British Sri Lankan young professionals working together with counterparts in Sri Lanka on projects that support peace.

Other portraits will be posted over the course of the month. To keep updated, please see our Twitter and Facebook pages.

Call for submissions

We recognise that many voices are missing from this series, and invite contributions which will broaden the discussion and add to the richness of the diaspora story.

Join the debate by contributing your own video diary, photo story or written piece to: communications@international-alert.org

Please follow the submission guidelines here. Diaspora diaries which fulfil the guidelines will be featured on the Alert website alongside the original series.

Find out more about this series and International Alert's work with Sri Lankan diaspora.