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The Walker Street Gallery and Arts Centre in Dandenong has launched a photographic exhibition for Sri Lankan Reconciliation called "Ancient Cultures, New Futures". The exhibition will run until Saturday 2nd May 2015 and is part of a Global Reconciliation project in association with members of the Australian Sri Lankan diaspora and Initiatives of Change, Australia.
This fascinating photographic exhibition brings together works that have been donated by photographers Stephen Champion, Paul James, Dominic Sansoni and Sivathas Sivasubramanium, together with works by social theorist and photographer Paul James.
Buddhist nun holding a coconut and burning camphor at Kataragama by Dominic Sansoni
The emphasis of the exhibition is to challenge reconciliation for Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan communities within Australia. The end of nearly three decades of violent war in Sri Lanka has brought about hope in a reconciliation process that honours and preserves difference, whether arising from culture, gender, politics, epistemology or ethics.
Paul Komesaroff and Sally Gardner in their contribution to the exhibition catalogue write: "The exhibition…starts with the all-pervading presence of the physical and cultural beauty of the country, which perpetuates every aspect of Sri Lankan life. It then takes up the unavoidable theme of the trauma to which all – old and young – have been exposed. Building on these clusters of ideas and images, the photographs highlight the struggle – often frustrated and thwarted by false starts and disappointing failures – to emerge joyfully from the cruel and unhappy past".
The exhibition narrative focusses on four motifs; the rich and diverse ancient culture, the legacy of the conflict, the re-establishment of everyday life and the struggle for a world of renewed possibilities.
The photographs take you on a journey which explores ancient and sacred places, as can be seen in the image of the Buddhist nun holding a coconut and burning camphor at Kataragama (photo by Dominic Sansoni, c. 1992), the pain of the past, captured by the photograph of Sivathas Sivasubramanium showing a woman waiting in the hospital ward at Vanunyia hospital (2009), people making their lives together, and the celebration of difference.
Elderly Batticaloa resident with portrait of her disappeared husband by Stephen Champion