AMBALAVANER SIVANANDAN

Ambalavaner Sivanandan left Ceylon in 1958, then aged 35, shocked by the violence of the ’58 riots in Colombo. Months later, he arrived in London and ‘walked straight into the Notting Hill Gate riots.’

ANONYMOUS FEMALE (MRS F)

Mrs F, born in 1947, is the fourth in
a family of ten children raised in Valvettithurai, Jaffna District, a town perched on the northernmost tip
of Sri Lanka.

SHE WAS A RIOTS BABY PART 1

Anonymous recollects her experiences of the mob violence
of Black July, 1983, in Wellawatte, Colombo, the last in a series of
anti-Tamil riots beginning in 1958 and widely regarded as the spark that ignited Sri Lanka into open war.

SHE WAS A RIOTS BABY PART 2

Anonymous recollects her experiences of the mob violence
of Black July, 1983, in Wellawatte, Colombo, the last in a series of
anti-Tamil riots beginning in 1958
and widely regarded as the spark that ignited Sri Lanka into open war.

MANGAYARKARASI AMIRTHALINGAM

Mangayarkarasi Amirthalingam was born in Moolai, Vaddukoddai, Jaffna
in 1933. At twelve years old, she enrolled in Ramanathan College – founded by early Tamil political
leader Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan –
to study music.

PEARL THEVANAYAGAM

Pearl Thevanayagam came to England at the age of 21 to study English literature in 1976. She returned home in 1981 after the death of her father and embarked on a successful career in war reporting.

RAJESHKUMAR ‘RAGHAVAN’

Raghavan is the alias of Rajeshkumar. Born in Punnalaikkadduvan in the North of Sri Lanka, Raghavan spent most of his youth in the charge of the LTTE before leaving in protest over authoritarianism and internecine killings in 1984.

SELLATHURAI SIVARASA

Sellathurai Sivarasa was born in Inuvil, Jaffna in 1932. He was raised by his mother after his father was bitten by
a snake in his residence.

SINTHUJAN VARATHARAJAH

Sinthujan Varatharajah was born in a refugee camp in Coburg, Germany in 1985. His parents fled Sri Lanka in the early 1980s, and, through a chance meeting with a German couple in the Jaffna hotel where his father worked, chose Germany as their destination.

LAVANYA LOGANATHAN

Lavanya Loganathan was born in Ealing Hospital in 1996. She is one of three generations living under the same roof in Greenford, a large suburb in the west London borough of Ealing.

ANONYMOUS MALE (BATTICALOA)

Anonymous (Batticaloa) was born in Batticaloa, Eastern Province in 1965. By his early teens, Batticaloa had begun to feel the effects of conflict after the 1977 riots. When he reached university age in 1983, his father abruptly sent him to India for studies.

AMBICA SELVARAJ

Ambica Selvaraj was born in a multicultural neighbourhood in Colombo in April 1951. Though she spoke Tamil at home and in school, she spent most of her childhood in
the company of Sinhalese and
English-speaking children,
unaware of the issues that would become so salient later on.

RS

RS was born in Wallington, London in April 1989. He was raised in a tight-knit Christian family in the London Borough of Sutton, one of the southernmost boroughs of London.

EARLY LIFE IN SRI LANKA

The life story approach to oral history often begins with childhood. For some of our interviewees, youth coincided with the birth of an independent Ceylon, renamed Sri Lanka in the
1972 Constitution. Others came of age during periods of communal
conflict or war. In each case, their stories vividly recall the ebb and flow of daily life in a close-knit Jaffna village or in the bustle of the capital in Colombo.

LAYERS OF BELONGING

Reflecting on relationships in Sri Lanka between people of different regional, economic, ethnic or linguistic backgrounds, many recall a rich diversity of interactions.

POLITICS & THE NATION-STATE

When Britons arrived in Sri Lanka in the 18th Century, landing, as many tourists do now, on its coastal shores before carving a path deep into its lush, green geographic centre of Kandy, they were following a well-worn trail to the country opened up as early as 1505 by Portuguese and Dutch colonists.

TROUBLES

With statehood came the challenge of defining who belonged to the new nation and in what language its laws and customs would be communicated.

LEAVING & ARRIVAL

British Tamils had their own group of pioneers drawn to London long before it became a port of last resort and asylum for families and individuals fleeing conflict.

TRANSITIONS

As the mass migration away from Sri Lanka grew, Tamil life spread to many places, including Germany, Norway, Denmark, the UK, Canada, Australia and the USA. This type of experience is often referred to as diaspora.

HOME

Through the generations finds its resting place on the idea of home.
For our speakers, home may be a place in the past, the present or the future, in the imagination or in the physical comfort of community or family, in Britain, Sri Lanka, a homeland in the North and East of Sri Lanka or somewhere else entirely.