Sri Lanka Portraits - 2006 - 2007

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In December 2006 I began a residency in Sri Lanka, being one of the first of a group of six artists to work at the Chandrasavanah Creation Centre in the south of the island. The project was set up by HARF, the Hikkaduwaa Area Relief Fund, established by Neil Butler and Nicky Sheehan not long after the tsunami devastated the south of Sri Lanka and much of the coastline along the basin of south east Asia. Nearly 40,000 people died in Sri Lanka when the tsunami struck on 26 December 2004. Half a million were made homeless.

I started conversations with HARF early in 2005, once the charity and rebuilding programme was under way, initially just with the desire to get involved, to help in some way. The rebuilding moved on at an incredible rate, and HARF had begun work on the Creation Centre; an arts resource for residencies, projects and creative ways of engaging with the various communities along this part of the south coast and Sri Lanka as a whole.

After investigating various potential projects including an arts festival, a peace tour and a documented journey across the island, from the war torn north to the beaches of the south, I returned to my original idea of portraits, collating thousands of high-resolution images of people who were directly affected by the tsunami. The portraits combined with interviews from meetings with a wide range of people created a collection of images and stories. The material formed an archive, stories of hope and survival framed by a study of how the human face expresses its environment.