Write to Heal

I wrote about the ‘Write to Reconcile’ project in Sri Lanka for the November 2019 edition of Teacher Plus. My objective was to explore and show how creative writing has been used as a tool to build bridges between people from communities with a history of conflict. Here is an excerpt from the article:

The three-year project was initiated by Shyam Selvadurai, a novelist of Sri Lankan heritage who is based in Canada. It was supported by the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka. The pedagogy and the creative output have been documented in a three-part book series titled Write to Reconcile. All the quotes in this piece, and references to stories, are from these books.

Internationally, the Sri Lankan civil war is often described as one that was fought between Sinhala Buddhists on the one side and Tamil Hindus on the other. This neat division is far too simplistic as is the idea that the war began in 1983 and ended in 2009. Communities are rarely so unanimous in their perspective on issues, and putting down the guns hardly ever brings hostilities to an immediate end. Moreover, Sri Lanka is rich in cultural diversity. It is home to other communities, including Muslims and Christians.

shyam.jpg
(Source: Goodreads)

Selvadurai remarks, “Because of the polarized situation that existed during the war, and unfortunately, continues to exist post-war, each community has come up with its own fixed narrative of the conflict and its place (always as the victim) within it. These fixed narratives are black and white. They leave no room for the incredible mixing and blending that has occurred between the various communities of this country; they leave no room for the fact that outside cultures, the various colonial powers, the Arab merchants whose ships stopped off at our shores, have also shaped and defined who we are; they leave no room for self-examination.”

In late 2012, a formal call was issued to invite all Sri Lankans from the age of 18 to 29, and teachers and professors of any age, to apply to be part of this creative writing project. Applicants were asked to submit writing samples, and make a case as to why they ought to be selected. Residential workshops were organized in different parts of Sri Lanka, and each one was followed by an online forum. In the first year, workshops were held in Colombo and Jaffna. In the second year, they took place in Kandy and Batticaloa. In the third year, they were hosted in Anuradhapura. Selvadurai had two co-facilitators to assist him — Nayomi Munaweera and Ameena Hussein. The former is an author of Sri Lankan heritage based in California. The latter is a Sri Lankan sociologist, writer and publisher.

To read the entire article, follow this link.


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