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Sri Lanka Portraits – 2006 – 2007

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 began conversations with HARF early in 2005. The rebuilding programme had moved at an incredible pace, and HARF had begun work on an arts resource for residencies and projects exploring creative ways of engaging with the various communities along the south coast and Sri Lanka as a whole, along with a computer and internet resource for local communities.

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 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 survival and a study of human faces.