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‘I Am’ project launched, October 2010 – June 2011

The ‘I Am’ project is a multimedia project that captures portraits of Sri Lanka’s regional identity in sound and photography through the stories of Sri Lankan elders. Work on the first series began in November 2009, and was launched in October 2010. The project continued until June 2011, with 36 characters from Jaffna, Kandy and Galle. The project was funded by the US State Department through the American Centre, Colombo. The project explored the central question: was there a time when people in Sri Lanka didn’t describe themselves as Sinhalese or Tamil, Muslim or Burgher?  “I visited churches, kovils, temples and mosques and was welcomed into people’s homes and workplaces. I traveled by plane, by road and by boat. I met and photographed elders; many wise men and women who trusted me with their life stories. They shed light on my questions and I grew more convinced that reflecting on the shared experiences of elders was on way to moving towards reconciliation in this conflict. The ‘I Am’ project was born — a collection of portraits in photography and sound capturing the experience and insights of Sri Lankan elders. I hoped that people would engage with these portraits of community, identity, and coexistence, and move them towards reconciliation. I also wanted to encourage those I met on my journey to tell others about the project, and in turn, to tell their own stories”. Kannan Arunasalam on the ‘I Am project’, project website, November 2009